As the United States continues an uphill battle to reform its education system and to re-establish its manufacturing dominance, many educators are seeking new and innovative programs to better prepare workers and students. Tomorrow’s students need more effective training solutions and today’s workers need upgraded skills in order to cope with the ever-changing technologies of today and tomorrow.

In its recently released position paper on “Education and the Workforce,” the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) introduced the subject as follows:

The ability of manufacturers to succeed in the highly competitive global marketplace depends on access to an educated, flexible and knowledge-based workforce. American employees, in turn, need the education and skills to participate in a high performance workforce for the robust and dynamic U.S. manufacturing economy.

The United States faces the daunting challenge of ensuring that every student possesses the appropriate knowledge and skills required to succeed in the 21st-century global economy. The NAM’s skills gap surveys consistently underscore how a vast majority of American manufacturers are facing a serious shortage of qualified employees, taking an increasingly negative toll on America’s ability to be innovative and productive. The broadening skills gap is due to several factors, including: the retirement of the baby boomers, advancements in technology that require new skills, increased job competition in the global marketplace, failure to cultivate a highly skilled workforce, a lack of emphasis on the necessary skill sets for advanced manufacturing and difficulty in retaining skilled talent.

Manufacturers have identified the basic or core competencies necessary for workers to succeed in virtually all entry-level jobs across sectors within manufacturing. The NAM believes that a system of industry-recognized skills credentials is necessary to reform education and training for 21st-century manufacturing by providing skills assessments, standardized curriculum requirements and nationally-portable credentials that validate the attainment of critical competencies required by industry.

Today, many smaller manufacturers lack satisfactory training programs for their employees. Unfortunately, the cost of implementing traditional classroom instruction has often prevented these companies from investing in a formal training program. In addition, since nearly half of our workforce does not readily assimilate information written above a 4th Grade reading level, traditional “lecture/reading” classes have often proved ineffective.

Fortunately, more and more community colleges are stepping up to the plate. They are finding it possible to spread the cost of training over a broad base by contracting with multiple manufacturers. As a Director at one such college remarked, “Our idea was to make our school a one-stop shopping training market where small and medium-size industries could come in and receive training advice and help.”

Many community colleges, in cooperation with local industries, are designing specific training paths for employees — paths that utilize the most innovative training technologies (multi-sensory based E-Learning and networked, digitized CD-ROM). These cooperative solutions allow the schools to train the employees of local industries at a minimal fee while utilizing state-of-the-art training technology — technology which has proven time and time again to increase retention, the ultimate aim of all learning. In addition, the community colleges will have the opportunity to increase enrollment while providing a better-trained and more productive workforce for their geographical community.

More on Thursday – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder, ITC Learning
www.itclearning.com/blog/ (Tuesdays & Thursdays)
e-Mail: bwalton@itclearning.com