Industryweek 7731 Usa Today Article

The Manufacturing-Education Nexus: Critical Mass is Crucial

Nov. 12, 2014
Some U.S.-based manufacturers are making great strides to plug the skills gap by partnering with local schools, but many more should be following their example.

Manufacturing executives looking for ways to close the skills gap at their companies should make sure they read this USA Today article posted this morning: "More High Schools Teach Manufacturing Skills."

The article notes that many schools across the U.S. are launching or reviving manufacturing programs to guide students toward good-paying jobs and help fill the critical shortage of skilled machinists, welders and maintenance technicians that many U.S.-based manufacturers face.

The article highlights several eye-opening examples of the strides that manufacturers are making to plug the gap by partnering with local high schools and community colleges.

Manufacturers are increasingly looking to high schools and community colleges to fill current staffing needs and gear up for a wave of Baby Boomer retirements. Educators are trying to dispel student's misconceptions about the industry and spark their interest before they choose other jobs or head to four-year colleges, a costly career investment that has yielded disappointing results for some graduates.

Among the manufacturers cited in the article are Bridgestone (IW 1000/133), Siemens (IW 1000/33), Volkswagen (IW 1000/6), Dow (IW 500/21), and Alcoa (IW 500/53). These companies and others are taking advantage of heightened interest in manufacturing as a career at American schools.

The key moving forward, though, will be getting more manufacturers involved in this movement, especially small and midsized companies. This point is brought home well by Eric Spiegel, CEO of Siemens USA:

"One of [manufacturers'] concerns is — if I train people for 3½ years, somebody else can come along and hire them," he says. "If you just have a few companies doing this in certain markets, it is a little bit of a risky investment."

The solution, he says, is to blanket the country with such programs. "I think this is really a path to America's new middle class," Spiegel says.

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