Addressing the manufacturing skills gap: Quit whining and start acting

category-badge-WORKFORCEYou’ve read it all before. “Manufacturing is facing a skills gap.” “Not enough qualified workers in the labor pool.” “Won’t be able to replace our aging workforce when they retire.”  Manufacturers have been complaining about the problem for quite some time, expecting someone else to fix it.  Well, we were a major contributing factor to the current state of affairs. Here’s how:

  • We offshored manufacturing to sources of cheaper labor,
  • We freely moved manufacturing plants to take advantage of “incentives” from a community a few states away,
  • We did not get involved when educators started removing “industrial arts” programs from our schools,
  • Large manufacturers abandoned much of the internal training and apprentice programs for the sake of cost reduction,
  • Small and medium manufacturers relied too heavily on the “churn” of skilled talent at larger manufacturers to provide a reach labor pool,
  • When the economy got soft, we closed domestic plants right and left,
  • We haven’t established a career in manufacturing as something our children should aspire to,
  • We have allowed the public to maintain an image of the manufacturing floor as something out of the 1950s.

It’s time for each of us, large and small, to do something.  As small manufacturers, we can’t simply stand by and wait for the big guys to do something.  They are, but they are looking to fill their own needs.  If you want to fill and enrich the talent pipeline, we all need to “give a little.”  There is a great piece in Plastics Technology about how several small manufacturers are working to “bridge the skills gap.”  Here are the key recommendations:

    quit_whining

  • Increase exposure to manufacturing by bringing students to your plant, via tours, internships, apprenticeships, job shadowing and more.
  • Volunteer your time to be an advisor on school design projects and other student competitions.
  • Be an advisor to your local school to help develop curriculums that will produce needed skills in future graduates.
  • Participate in Career Fairs and speaking opportunities at local schools.
  • Have some of your younger employees use social media to spread the word about the great place they work.

It took us a couple decades to create this “gap” and it won’t be filled overnight.  But the process will go better if we all do our part – large or small.

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Gary Walzer

Gary Walzer

VP Manufacturing Services at PolymerOhio Inc.
(614) 776-5265, ext. 416
gwalzer@polymerohio.org

Gary is responsible for ensuring the Manufacturing Services team provides comprehensive, high-quality services that help manufacturers grow their business and improve operating efficiency.He has been consulting with manufacturing companies on technology development, commercialization and implementation for more than 20 years.Gary began his career as a manufacturing engineer in the glass and steel industries, then moved into managing the development of process energy technologies for several manufacturing industries. Gary’s work with manufacturers has resulted in the development of new products and services, as well as cost reduction and efficiency improvements in numerous manufacturing operations.
Gary Walzer
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