May 28, 2014

We must start planning better education and training tracks for both our workforce and for the eventual leaders needed in our subject-matter disciplines. Instead of sending everyone into the same college track, we must recognize that interests, talents and innate skills vary from individual to individual. It’s that recognition that must guide us.

With that thought in mind, let’s first examine the most forgotten members of our population — our emerging, and necessary, industrial workforce.

Keith Nosbusch, Chairman and CEO of Rockwell Automation, in a TIME publication, expressed important ideas on the subject of our 21st Century manufacturing workforce:

“ . . . people will be valued for their knowledge; they will be safer; and more highly educated workers will drive sustainability in both their enterprises and their career paths.

To rise to the challenge of a global manufacturing marketplace driven by productivity and flexibility, and the need to develop workers able to lead in such an environment, our industrial strategy must address three key attributes of workforce development: 1) Lifelong Learning; 2) Competency-based, Multi-Media Instruction; and, 3) Partnerships between Learning Centers and Manufacturers.

To prepare workers for the technology-infused, high productivity workplaces of advanced manufacturing, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) skills must be a key focus of our nation’s educational system. Employers must invest in job-specific, sustainable training programs to ensure workers can continue to advance with the evolution of new business processes. And, the investment of taxpayer-dollars in workforce development through the Workforce Investment Act and other federal programs must be focused on training to manufacturing skills in demand.

Educational pathways in secondary and post-secondary schools must be aligned to the competencies and skills required in the workplace, using tools like the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)-endorsed Manufacturing Skills Certification System, resulting in credentials with real value in the workplace. Technology must infuse education as it has the workplace, and job training programs must continually evolve to accommodate emerging needs, such as the need for more workers with Certified Energy Manager credentials.

Finally, more collaboration and partnerships between manufacturers and our educational institutions are critical to the success of both workers and manufacturers nationwide. . . . “

And on the other side of the coin, “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL” published a brilliant article by Peter Berkowitz several years ago that still rings true. In “Why Liberal Education Matters” Berkowitz argues most convincingly that, “Today it is the connection of the humanities to a free mind and citizenship in a free society that requires defense.”

“Liberal education supposes that while individual rights are shared equally by all, the responsible exercise of those rights is an achievement that depends on cultivating the mind. . . .

How can one think independently about what kind of life to live without acquiring familiarity with the ideas about happiness and misery, exaltation and despair, nobility and baseness that study of literature, philosophy and religion bring to life? How can one pass reasoned judgment on public policy if one is ignorant of the principles of constitutional government, the operation of the market, the impact of society on perception and belief and, not least, the competing opinions about justice to which democracy in America is heir? . . .

A proper education, culminating in a liberal education, gives science an honored place. It teaches students, among other things, the fundamentals of the scientific method and the contribution that science has made to human security, freedom and prosperity; it exposes all students to the basic achievements of biology, chemistry and physics; and it encourages those with aptitude to specialize. At the same time, a liberal education brings into focus the limits of science, beginning with the impossibility of explaining the value of science and math in scientific and mathematical terms — to say nothing of science’s incapacity to account for the worth and dignity of the individual.”

Both positions are necessary if we are going to effectively educate/train our individual citizens to help us maintain a leadership position in manufacturing and in thought.

More on Monday – – – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder of ITC Learning