6 Steps to Close the Skills Gap


Ed Potoczak has written an article in Industry Week suggesting some practical steps to help the American workforce keep up with the industry needs in manufacturing.

  1. Improve manufacturing’s rep. Too many people have an outdated idea of the working conditions in manufacturing. Rexroth’s involvement with schools and communities is a good step in the right direction, but more industry leaders and local factories need to step up. By giving kids and their parents a more accurate understanding of the work — and the kinds of classes needed to prepare for it — we can make sure that young people will consider manufacturing and industrial engineering.
  2. Broaden the talent pool. Potoczak suggests turning to Gen X, a more tech-savvy cadre who may be ready to value job stability more than Millennials do. We’d suggest remembering women and other underrepresented groups, too. Women make up just 20% of engineering students, while African-American enrollment has fallen by 17% in recent years. Welcoming a broader range of individuals to the table could help to bridge the gap.
  3. Invest in training. Internship and apprenticeship programs are extremely important to Rexroth, coming as the company does out of the European apprenticeship tradition. It can work in the United States, too.
  4. Give new workers interesting jobs. Potoczak points out that the idea of “paying their dues” by working in menial, repetitive jobs is one that Millennials refuse to embrace. They don’t hesitate to quit if work seems boring. So entry-level positions need to involve creativity and responsibility.
  5. Build cohesive teams. Once again, Potoczak is looking at the generational divide. Baby Boomers bring a strong work ethic to the table, Gen Xers want work-life balance, and Millennials are collaborative, he says, so mix it up in the teams and get all the strengths. We’d say it makes sense to mix it up with different ethnicities and men and women, too.
  6. Use appropriate technology. Empower workers by choosing technology that makes work more efficient and more productive. Cross-generational teams can sometimes get tripped up by different sets of assumptions about technology, so plan ahead. If making a YouTube video of instructions helps younger workers, why not? If older workers need help from the younger workers to make and upload that video, why not? Rexroth is leading the charge to make industrial tech comfortable for new users.

Is your company taking these steps?

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