We had just written about the skills gap when a new book on the subject turned up in the mailbox. Obviously, this subject is on people’s minds. In this case, the Summit Media Group brought in experts to come up with a solution for the problem. Keith S. Campbell is the editor for the Manufacturing Workforce Development Playbook.
They acknowledge that it’s hard for Americans to wrap their minds around the idea that there are plenty of Americans out of work, and that there are also plenty of unfilled skilled manufacturing jobs. Many Americans think manufacturing jobs have gone the way of the dinosaur — and not the servomotor-driven one you see here.
However, Summit Media group have done their homework and are completely sure that the skills gap is a current issue for manufacturers across the country. Beyond that, they see a manufacturing renaissance on the way, and foresee even more serious problems down the line.
American manufacturers need people who understand industrial automation and can work with machinery, and they’re not finding people like that in the labor pool.
They see three basic reasons:
- * Rising skill requirements for entry and growth in manufacturing careers.
- * An aging manufacturing workforce, particularly in skilled technical occupations.
- * The lack of an adequate and reliable training and education pipeline for talented new
entrants into manufacturing careers.
CNN Money adds that young Americans don’t want to work in factories because it’s uncool. We’ve seen that claim before, but it’s hard to believe. Who wouldn’t want to work with robots and giant machines? We’re going with the lack of training opportunities. But Campbell points out that a lot of Americans hold “the erroneous but persistent public perception that any four year degree is preferable to technical training.”
It’s not so much that young people don’t want to become engineers, he thinks, but that their parents and guidance counselors steer them in other directions.
Perhaps the biggest challenge we face in finding talented new entrants into manufacturing career paths is the outdated and false impression that our sector is dirty, dull, dangerous, and dying. On the contrary, like most modern manufacturing companies, our facilities are clean, well-lit, safe, and home to world-class technology and equipment.
Campbell points out that most high school teachers and counselors have never been in a factory. We’re pretty sure that if we ask the average high school student whether he’d like to build giant moving dinosaurs or wait tables, motion control would win. Unfortunately, the average student has no idea that manufacturing involves cool jobs. he may know about animated dinosaurs, but he can’t even imagine all the excellent machinery he could work with if he went into the field of industrial automation.
The experts included in the playbook are generally agreed that the solution to the skills gap is not for manufacturers to try to train their own workforces, nor for schools to figure out how to do better, nor for individuals to get off the couch and learn how to program modern manufacturing machinery. This siloed approach hasn’t been working and there’s no reason to think it will work better in the future. A new approach is required — and it may have to begin with the end of some stereotypes.
In the meantime, if you need support with Rexroth and Indramat motion control, you don’t have to call a recent grad because you can call us. We have been working with these components for many years, and we can help.