March 21, 2016

A few years ago I received an interesting e-Mail from Derek Singleton, Product Manager, Applications for Software Advice.  Derek wanted me to examine the ideas he was advocating in regard to overcoming the skills gap in manufacturing.

Specifically, he advocated three possible solutions and the following italicized sections are his opinions (along with my own comments which are set off with parentheses):

A recent Deloitte report estimated that as many as 600,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs are unfilled.  Why?  There’s a skills mismatch in the manufacturing industry.  With unemployment sitting at 8.3 percent, this is cause for concern.

 Much of the recent coverage around the manufacturing skills gap has focused on its root causes, which are by now familiar:  baby boomers are retiring, shop floor automation is increasing the technical skills required in manufacturing jobs, and youth are disinterested in pursuing a manufacturing career.

 Whatever the causes, we now need to work together as a nation to overcome the skills deficit. I see three ways to achieve this:

 1. Strengthen educational partnerships;

 2. Invest in corporate in-house training programs; and,

 3. Energize the workforce of tomorrow.

 The first two strategies will help manufacturers overcome the problem of hiring a capable workforce in the near-term. Meanwhile, energizing youth about pursuing a manufacturing career will help create a supply of workers for the long-term.

 Strengthen Educational Partnerships

Technical colleges (and other parts of academia) are perfectly positioned to equip a new manufacturing workforce with the right skills. There is already an extensive network of schools that partner with manufacturers to teach relevant skills. These partnerships need to be strengthened.

 (I know of at least four training vendors that have strong relationships with Community Colleges and are working well at partnering with them.  Some even offer revenue splits so that both parties benefit economically.)


  Invest in In-House Training Programs

 Over the last three decades, however, in-house training and apprenticeship programs have steadily declined across the industry. Many of these programs were cut for budgetary reasons. A recent study of UK manufacturers suggests that domestic manufacturers should bring these programs back.

 (I have been producing media training programs for American industry since 1973 and know that Derek’s observation is accurate.  The days of massive apprenticeship training in America’s large manufacturing and process organizations are behind us.  However, in-house training has historically rendered the greatest returns and is ready to be revitalized, although on a more modest basis.  Most importantly, the key to unlocking the learning door remains courseware rooted in full motion video and/or the newer gaming techniques.  That learning door will remain closed if the courses you select are adapted PowerPoint and re-purposed written procedures.)


Energize the Workforce of Tomorrow

Solving the workforce needs of today does little good if the next generation is disinterested in working in manufacturing. In the longer-term, manufacturers will need to get youth interested in manufacturing by exposing them to it in a fun, engaging way.

(In my opinion, this is the major challenge.  But in order to be effective at developing highly qualified front-line workers, the stigma attached to vocational-technical education must be removed.  In many European countries, an apprenticeship program bestows on its graduates respect for their high level of skill, and those nations recognize this with nationally accepted certification.  But in America, the vo-tech track is, too often, perceived as dead-end — catering to society’s most disadvantaged by providing a minimum of skills designed to be used as a safety net from poverty.”  We’ve got to rectify this challenge before we can make significant advances in “Educational Partnerships” and “In-House Training.”)

Derek’s ideas are sound.  All three can make a positive difference to your industry’s increased revenue and profitability.

More on Wednesday –  –  –

     — Bill Walton, co-Founder, ITC Learning

      www.itclearning.com/blog/  (Mondays & Wednesdays)

 (This is a personal blog.  Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner, jhbillwalton@gmail.com, an independent consultant.  They do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in a professional or personal capacity.)