Both presidential candidates espouse their desire to bring more manufacturing jobs back to America. However, they each fail to fully comprehend that the skills required for many of today’s “manufacturing jobs” have evolved — along with the technologies that have made industry more efficient.

It is, undoubtedly, true that the jobs of today and tomorrow will require a workforce that is better educated and better trained than the workforce of the 20th Century. Manufacturing has become more efficient with the adoption of new technologies and today’s workforce has both more to learn and additional skills to acquire.

However, in the process of upgrading skills, it will be a gigantic mistake to ignore the basic knowledge skills required of every worker — skills that remain as important today as they did fifty years ago. That mistake will be compounded if we continue to assume that the necessary basic skills knowledge has been successfully acquired in our public school system.

Today, a solid background in industrial fundamentals such as work practice, proper tool use, applied industrial mathematics, reading and writing remain critical elements in any meaningful industrial skills training program.

Many manufacturers and their associated community colleges strive to provide that necessary basic skills training — and, yet, all too often fail!

Often, that is because the programs are “too academic.”

Adults in industrial environments have difficultly learning from textbooks and traditional lecture classes that, generally, don’t relate to real life situations.

Worse still, is the assumption that many of these fundamental skills have been successfully learned in earlier public school environments. Of course, that assumption is fatally flawed since most public school classrooms still deal in that outdated “lecture/assigned reading” method of instruction.

As we all know by now, most of our population today lives in a “television learning” culture which, consequently, makes sound multi-sensory media instruction the better answer. In addition, Gen X and Gen Y are also quite comfortable in a “gaming” environment which, interestingly, is also multi-sensory in design.

It is not, therefore, surprising that excellent multi-sensory training programs (interactive CD-ROM being the best example) make fundamental skills come to life by showing how those skills directly relate to the job. These application-oriented approaches motivate adults. Real life situations present the “hows” and the “whys,” along with the facts — through job-related examples.

Multi-sensory learning in the areas of tool use, applied industrial math, interpersonal skills, reading and writing are designed to build a strong foundation for more advanced industrial skills training. More than just facts and theory, well designed multi-sensory programs prepare adults for the real challenges they will face on the job.

American industry needs to open its eyes to our current learning culture. In addition to electrical and mechanical skills training, industrial fundamentals instruction requires a continuing commitment. The paybacks will be enormous and the workforce needed to compete internationally will be more readily attained.

But, only if American industry will enthusiastically embrace today’s learning culture — multi-sensory instruction!

More on Thursday – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder, ITC Learning (Tuesdays & Thursdays)