Good News for the Future of Manufacturing: Higher Competency in New Applicants

posted on: Saturday June 29, 2013

DSC_6717One of the greatest challenges facing the manufacturing industry is a lack of qualified workers. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, in 2011, about 600,000 jobs went unfilled in the industry. The Manufacturing Institute writes: “The manufacturing workforce is growing older at a greater rate than the economy as a whole and the U.S. education system is not equipping American students with the right skills and in the right disciplines to contribute to the manufacturing economy.  This lack of qualified workers is beginning to impact manufacturers’ ability to compete in the global market.” While the baby boomer generation is working later into their years, a Siemens press release, Siemens PLM Software Launches New Community College Best Practice Program to Revitalize U.S. Manufacturing, states, “It is estimated that within five to 15 years the retirement of skilled baby boomers will create a workforce shortage of 10 million additional workers by 2020.”

The good news is that community colleges have not only taken notice but are doing something about it.

Schools across the country are increasing funding for their manufacturing programs. They see a need that they can fill by making their current programs more advanced and true to the field. Dwight Barnes, instructor at Johnston Community College in North Carolina, says, “Every one of our students will have a job when they graduate. We get calls from companies every week asking to interview our students.”

Part of the growing need for new talent in manufacturing has to do with evolving technology. Workers now have to be able to write and edit software updates for high-tech machines. They also have to be able to operate, troubleshoot, and maintain this equipment. All of these tasks require specific education, and schools are getting the support and funding they need to properly train students on these tasks in a two-year program.

These community colleges are also working very closely with local manufacturers. Employers are recruited to sit on advisory boards to help design curricula. Schools are getting direct input and feedback from manufacturers on how the field changes. As a result, students receive training based on the most up-to-date needs in their chosen sectors. This not only includes classes and internships, but also equipment. Several schools recently announced plans to upgrade or buy equipment – sometimes worth millions – to ensure their students are competent in their chosen fields.

Strong efforts and collaborations are also being made to attract students to the programs. College staffs work hard to debunk some of the myths people have about manufacturing jobs. Johnston Community College’s president, David Johnson, says, “Many think manufacturing is repetitive, simple work that pays little.” Colleges are working with manufacturers to give potential students a glimpse of real life. In some cases, this involves touring plants and facilities, and in others, touring true-to-life labs on campus. Additionally, some schools are recruiting high school students to take introductory courses if they haven’t yet chosen a field of study.

This is all very good news for manufacturers, but they do still bear a certain burden. With more jobs than candidates to fill them, graduates will be discerning when applying for work. Employers then will want to present ideal jobs for the candidates they helped groom. What differentiates the same position in two different companies is not usually money.

While income is an important consideration in accepting a position, job satisfaction is more about employee welfare and how highly employees perceive their managers appreciate them. These factors are more in the details than the job description. Employees feel appreciated not only through verbal praise, but also programs and equipment designed with a worker’s well-being in mind.

Safety and ergonomics are the keys to employee well-being. These are extra measures that go beyond OSHA and other regulatory compliance. Designing work stations and job tasks to reduce strain and repetitive motions are common ergonomic initiatives. Also significant are machines and equipment used to aid tasks or eliminate physical strain caused by pushing, pulling, lifting, and/or carrying. These “tweaks” to job roles not only keep employees free of injury and fatigue, they also add longevity to their careers. In the long run, this benefits both the employee and the employer.

If your open jobs require pushing and pulling machinery, carts, product, or components, a Load Mover power tug may greatly benefit you and your employees. Not only do they maneuver well as they handle up to 50,000 pounds, they also have been shown to increase productivity. For more information on Load Movers equipment, search this site, email, or call 952-767-1720.