AME: Building a more skilled labor market

How the manufacturing sector can close the skills gap.

07/11/2014


Courtesy: AME

 “Shop class” suffers from a long-standing image problem. The skills training taught there is increasingly viewed as a relic and an unnecessary expense as high schools have shifted their focus to placing students in four-year colleges while working within ever-tightening school budgets.

The Miller Center’s Milstein Commission on New Manufacturing , co-chaired by former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and former Indiana Governor and Senator Evan Bayh, was recently convened to identify and advance ideas that would encourage the growth of small and medium-size manufacturing enterprises (SMEs) and the middle-class jobs they provide.

Part of their focus was the skills gap widely acknowledged among manufacturing experts as a significant impediment to SME growth. Today, growing manufacturing enterprises frequently have trouble finding qualified workers.

And, what was one of the solutions proposed by commission members to close that gap and build a more skilled and responsive labor market?

You guessed it: shop class. 

A four-year college degree used to promise a more assured path to the American Dream, so educators emphasized preparation for higher education over vocational training. That simply is no longer the case. Droves of college graduates now enter the workforce overloaded with debt from student loans and experiencing greatly diminished prospects than college graduates before them.

At the same time, the manufacturing sector has undergone technological innovations that offer expanded opportunities for “makers” working within the 21st century marketplace. It is time for a new and slightly re-envisioned shop class to better link the skilled workforce with labor needs.

The Milstein Commission has proposed to expand skills training opportunities, particularly in the technology and engineering sectors as part of the high school curriculum. The commission proposes taking another step by recommending that high school students earn a certified, industry-recognized skill before graduating high school. Those certifications would function much like advanced placement tests, which offer transferrable college credits to students who score at a certain level on the placement exam.

“Manual skills alone aren’t enough, and neither is a 4-year college degree,” said John Aughenbaugh, a Project Lead the Way (PLTW) teacher at Warhill High School in Williamsburg, Virginia. PLTW is a program sponsored by the Association for Manufacturing Excellence that introduces high-school students to technical training through a host of elective courses, ranging from wood- and metal-working to computer modeling and 3-D design. Aughenbaugh noted high retention rates in these classes; more than half take more than two of the elective courses and approximately 25 percent take more than three; and highlights the importance of students gaining the technical expertise to move from designing something to actually making it.

Raven Sickal, a Warhill High School senior who took PLTW courses in computer-animated design, introduction to engineering and computer-integrated manufacturing, said a world opened up for her when she took those courses and visited local manufacturers as part of a PLTW-sponsored Manufacturing Day. After her graduation, she hopes to pursue an engineering career through the two-year professional track offered at the Newport News Apprentice School.

Skills training at the high school level offers three important benefits. It provides high school graduates immediately entering the workforce with skills that increase their likelihood of employment and entry into the middle class; it equips students pursuing four-year degrees business and technical acumen beyond what a four-year degree may offer; and it works to better align industry needs with the skills of an emerging workforce.

It should be viewed as an essential part of a well-rounded education, not as the ghost of a bygone era. 

Juliana Bush is the coordinator of Student and Policy Programs at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. This content originally appeared on AME’s Target Online Magazine. Edited by Brittany Merchut, Project Manager, CFE Media, bmerchut(at)cfemedia.com. 



No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Prescriptive maintenance; Hannover Messe 2017 recap; Reduce welding errors
Safety standards and electrical test instruments; Product of the Year winners; Easy and safe electrical design
Safer human-robot collaboration; 2017 Maintenance Survey; Digital Training; Converting your lighting system
Mobility as the means to offshore innovation; Preventing another Deepwater Horizon; ROVs as subsea robots; SCADA and the radio spectrum
Future of oil and gas projects; Reservoir models; The importance of SCADA to oil and gas
Big Data and bigger solutions; Tablet technologies; SCADA developments
Automation modernization; Predictive analytics enable open connectivity; System integration success; Automation turns home brewer into brew house
Commissioning electrical systems; Designing emergency and standby generator systems; Paralleling switchgear generator systems
Natural gas for tomorrow's fleets; Colleges and universities moving to CHP; Power and steam and frozen foods

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Featured articles highlight technologies that enable the Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies to get data more easily to the user.
Compressed air plays a vital role in most manufacturing plants, and availability of compressed air is crucial to a wide variety of operations.
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me