Mike Collins: Manufacturing as a Career
04 July 2012 at 13:56 p.m.
Mike Collins discusses skill shortages in manufacturing and explores the opportunities and obstacles to recruiting people into manufacturing careers.
Is a manufacturing career a good option?
There are many programs to try and interest young people in manufacturing. Examples include summer camps, plant tours, manufacturing games, etc. However, to get young people to become interested in a career in manufacturing, it will take a lot more then promotions. It will require the following:
Government investment in vocational schools — Manufacturers do rate the community colleges as their preferred training providers. President Obama has asked the Congress for $8 billion to train community college students for high-growth industries. The President said the Community Career Fund would train 2 million workers for jobs in potential growth areas.
Apprentice type training with long OJT training — I think that the advanced training needed is some variation of the old apprentice program. This type of training takes several years of classroom education and several years of on-the-job training. The problem is that many manufacturers (particularly large manufacturers) have been very reluctant to invest in this type of long term training.
Shop classes — I think the best thing we can do to interest both grade school and high school students is to bring back shop classes to these schools. This will be a real challenge, because it appears that the schools are going to focus on the new STEM learning and there probably won’t be enough money for both programs.
Vocational class credits — Just getting a degree in general subjects like history, psychology, or business may not get someone a job. The last census showed that general degree graduates had entry level wages of $30-35,000 per year. We need an education system that is open to the idea of including career-oriented classes and skill training into the education curriculum. What is needed is theoretical knowledge combined with practical training in manufacturing systems. Yes, I mean giving people credit for skill training no matter what degree they are pursuing. This could help students with college degrees get a white-collar job in manufacturing and help manufacturers replace the retiring skilled workers.
Money and wages — Students are very aware of vocations that pay well such as an electrician, plumber, or nurse. It will probably take higher entry level wages to attract the good students who have credentials in advanced math and science. If they are recruited into an advanced technical training program, it will probably also be necessary to pay them as they go through the training for the skills acquired. Furthermore, it will perhaps award them with industry certifications for their transferable skills. Since the large manufacturers have been focused on lowering labor costs and getting rid of unions for the last 30 years, paying more to get the right people will test their resolve.
Career — To recruit the necessary people, manufacturing really needs to describe the opportunity as a career – not just another job. I think this will take a long-term commitment to job security for the recruits. It may also require offering internships and scholarships to help pay for education and training.
Young people need to know that that a career in manufacturing has great future potential. The big issue is not promoting this career to young people. It is about money and investment. I am not very optimistic that many of the suggestion I have described above will be acceptable to manufacturers or the government. Perhaps we will simply have to get deeper into the skilled worker crisis before these kinds of suggestion will be considered.
© Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. www.realeconomy.co.nz