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Promoting Education for a Skilled Workforce

Skilled-worforce Although many are still out of a job, a shortage of skilled workers in manufacturing is looming, according to Mark Tomlinson, executive director and general manager of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. Today’s businesses are increasingly more high tech with lots of computers, lasers, and robotics. “Now there is an increased need to fill the manufacturing jobs associated with aerospace, energy, medical device manufacturing and aspects of transportation,” Tomlinson says.

In a special report for Smart Business, Dennis Seeds discusses What the shortage in skilled manufacturing workers means to a hungry industry. Perception is vital to success and Seeds discusses the negative branding associated with the manufacturing industry. Indeed, parents, teachers and counselors who influence students and young people are often given the wrong picture.

Only 30 percent of respondents to the 2010 “Made in America?” survey conducted by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute said they would encourage their child to pursue a career in manufacturing ― despite reporting encouraging improvements in their perceptions about the jobs. Mike Rowe, of Dirty Jobs, is working to change that perception with his website, Mike Rowe Works.

Many companies, unwilling to wait for changing perceptions, are initiating programs to create their own workforce. Gateway Community and Technical College in Florence, Kentucky, is trying to fill the void by offering courses designed to prepare students for the manufacturing workforce upon graduation. In fact, they are partnering with a local manufacturer, MAG IAS, LLC, helping manufacturing-minded students get on a solid career path, providing on-the-job training and related classroom instruction via an apprenticeship program designed to prepare them for a career in manufacturing. The program was started in 2007, and successful candidates are hired as full-time employees by MAG and provided 100 percent company-paid tuition.

Last month, President Obama announced a major expansion of Skills for America’s Future, an industry led initiative to dramatically improve industry partnerships with community colleges and build a nation-wide network to maximize workforce development strategies, job training programs, and job placements. This new push for 500,000 community college students to earn manufacturing credentials will provide relief to an industry struggling to find skilled workers, said President Obama.

This initiative includes a number of public-private partnerships, including some with leading manufacturers, that leverage the core competencies of the technology sector, media companies, and federal agencies to enhance these efforts through their own initiatives to bolster the nation’s manufacturing workforce, including:

  • “Boots on the Ground” Help for Manufacturers to Implement Credentials: The Federal government will collaborate with The Manufacturing Institute, through the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), in a program to promote a curriculum based on NAM’s advanced manufacturing skills certification system in community colleges in 30 states.
  • Building These Credentials into High School Pathways: Air Products, a global manufacturer serving customers in industrial, energy, technology and healthcare markets worldwide, is partnering with SkillsUSA to build partnerships in 3,500 member high schools and more than 200 colleges to adopt these credentials in their schools.
  • Providing New Online Tools for Workers to Earn and Utilize these Credentials: A new career website called Pipeline will provide job seekers with real-time data on job openings and information on additional education needed. This effort will be headed up by Futures Inc. in partnership with the Manufacturing Institute in 17 partner states with plans to expand nationwide.
  • Investing over $2 billion to help community colleges train students and workers

Through efforts in the private and public sectors, the push is on to ensure a pipeline of skilled employees for our manufacturing workforce.

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