Thursday, October 31, 2013

Manufacturing Skills Get Learned Overnight? REALLY?

I was reading comments in one of my LinkedIn Groups and almost fell out of my chair. This person who holds a PhD in history, claims that if there were really a shortage of workers for manufacturing companies, wages would be rising and workers would flock to the industry. In a perfect world it might just be true.

Out here in the real world, it just ain’t so. If money were the fix, I’m pretty sure many manufacturers would just throw a gob of money at this problem, snap their fingers and click their heels to solve this “simple” problem.

Unfortunately, the PhD is only half right. Entry level people may not be attracted to the $12-$14 per hour starting wages for many of the unskilled positions you'd score with a basic high school education.

The real problem is that most progressive manufacturers are looking for workers with advanced skills such as the ability to read blueprints, how to use measuring tools and even more desirable, the ability to operate modern CNC machines. These skills aren’t learned overnight and just raising the wages won’t make them magically appear. Only time and training does that.

So what’s the real solution?

  1. We need to recognize there really is a problem getting trained people for our manufacturing plants and that articles like the one this PhD wrote misrepresent the situation. We must also continue to debunk the types of press that the nay-sayers put out that spread false or misleading facts that parents and students are reading and basing their decisions on.
  2. Rather than acting in silos, government, educational and industry must all work together to develop educational programs that feed the pipeline for skilled workers.
  3. Probably the most important solution; we need to continue to promote a manufacturing career as a viable and very rewarding experience. This “education” process will involve not only the students but their parents as well since the decision to enter these industries is made not after high school but at the seventh through ninth grade level. 

A word of advice to the PhD.—stick to your history books and you might understand why manufacturing is a great career choice for someone wanting to create something!

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