It’s no secret there is a shortage of skilled laborers for manufacturing and technical jobs. In fact, according to a Production Machining article, the “labor shortage appears to be slowing job growth. Year-over-year job growth is now only at 1.6 percent, down from 2.3 percent in February 2015.” In this same period, job demand was at a near record level. In this classic case of supply and demand, demand is outweighing supply as baby boomers begin to retire, leaving the workforce to those in younger generations.
Manufacturers, politicians, and educators alike know the importance of protecting and growing the skilled manufacturing workforce, especially among younger people who could put those skills to work throughout their careers. To that end, many programs, camps, and exhibits are popping up around the country to close the skills gap and prepare the next generation of manufacturers.
Summer manufacturing camps are popping up around the country, including this program in Ohio that pairs local manufacturers with schoolchildren. Through the camp, they “introduce kids and their parents to an up-to-date, real-world understanding of American manufacturing.” Other states are beginning to catch on, and manufactures also seem to appreciate the opportunity to reach potential members of manufacturing’s future workforce.
Manufacturing camps are typically held in summer and cater to a group of younger students, exposing them to the industry from a young age. They are designed to be both informative and fun, motivating children to work toward the skills necessary for manufacturing positions.
To increase the number of skilled employees capable of filling manufacturing jobs, many high schools, technological colleges, and community colleges around the country have added classes designed to give students more opportunities to learn manufacturing technologies and skills. In one manufacturing class in Selma, California, “students learn everything from the basics of how to use carpentry tools to how to design using high-tech skills through AutoCAD, a software program that allows them to make blueprints.” Students in these classes are not learning manufacturing skills of the past but rather skills necessary to meet the high-tech needs of today’s manufacturing world.
Museums and Exhibitions
A new exhibition at the Greenville Technical College “works particularly hard to underscore the fact that today’s high-tech manufacturing careers are nothing like the backbreaking manufacturing jobs of the past” by allowing area students and visitors a hands-on manufacturing experience. Visitors enjoy touch-screens, augmented reality, and means to explore and solve manufacturing problems together. The center also trains students and career-changing adults in partnership with local manufacturers.
The American Precision Museum teaches guests about the past, present, and future of manufacturing in the United States to “capture the imaginations of young and old with the spirit of innovation, problem solving and design demonstrated through the dynamic story of the machines and people which form the foundation and future of the manufacturing industry in America.”
Minding the Gap
Humans will always be necessary on the manufacturing floor for a variety of reasons. To prevent another manufacturing skills gap, as we are experiencing now, it’s important we all work together to mind the gap. Through education, outreach programs, and community and school relationships, we can begin to build the next generation of skilled manufacturers.