America's Most Wanted: Skilled Workers

A highly skilled workforce is necessary to meet 21st century manufacturing needs.

By Gerald Shankel, President/CEO, Fabricators & Manufacturers Assn. International

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"Rebuilding California's infrastructure will require a new generation of skilled workers and this campaign will promote apprenticeships targeted at our youth to prepare them for these important jobs," Schwarzenegger has stated. "The recent passage of legislation to reform and rebuild the state's water system is the perfect example of a project that will require the talents and knowledge of these workers. Investing in California's workforce is a key component to our state's long-term economic recovery."

Another example of a successful workforce development program is The Society of Manufacturing Engineers' partnership with Project Lead the Way. The initiative develops more than 250 Gateway Academies that give young people insight into the value of math, science and teaming. These academies provide a platform for future engineering and manufacturing to help youth find meaningful careers in the skilled trade arena.

Fostering Training
Another strategy to attract the next generation of workers is a concept employers have used for centuries – the apprenticeship, and its cousin, the internship. Their value has never been so significant and appreciated; young people are exposed to the exciting opportunities in manufacturing while companies have a chance to recruit, evaluate and hire needed employees. Manufacturers should institute these programs or other training initiatives to introduce high school students to careers in the trades.

Companies also should tap the knowledge of their aging workforce as these highly skilled workers can play a training role both within and outside an organization. Climax Portable Machine Tools in Newberg, Ore., for example, instituted a cross-training program that features senior machinists training and acting as mentors to junior employees, and established an in-house training program to help reverse the attrition of highly trained machinists and to keep them current with the new skills necessary.

Other older machinists act as advisors to instructors at local community colleges to assist them in teaching the newest machining techniques and helping with curriculum planning. By recognizing the value of these workers, Climax strengthens both its own internal processes, and reputation within the community and with customers.

Overhauling Manufacturing's Image

All of the campaigns and programs described here can help change young people's minds about manufacturing – if they hear about them. We must constantly inform the media about all of these exciting initiatives with energetic public information campaigns, work with them to help tell these stories to the public – and convince young people dream jobs are there for the taking.

It's also one of the missions of the NBT: Spark interest among young people in the industry and help revitalize the future of manufacturing in America. The NBT utilizes its resources in local and national public awareness campaigns to spread the message that manufacturing is a viable career option. Information about those efforts and programs is available at www.nutsandboltsfoundation.org.

Young people need to know that both historically and moving forward there is a high demand and great future potential – including the opportunity to own and operate your own business – that comes with a career in the skilled trades.

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