Manufacturers And Academe Collaboration

Do manufacturers still deal with a workforce skills shortage?

Evidently, the steady recovery of the manufacturing industry has presented some major challenges to some companies. Resulting from years of manufacturing offshore, an apparent shortage of skilled workers ensued as factory or plant workers looked for other employment options.

Younger Crop Of Workers Not Manufacturing-Skilled 
So when manufacturing companies started bringing back partial or entire production processes to the United States, the problem surfaced. And what makes this more challenging is the fact that the industry can’t rely on the younger crop of workers to fill the skills shortage gap since their skills were not oriented in manufacturing.

Aging And Retiring Manufacturing Workforce
In addition, those who continued to work in manufacturing companies are aging and therefore nearing retirement age. And this did not help the manufacturing managers because there’s just not enough talent around to chose from.

Manufacturers And Academe Collaborate
And this workforce skills gap has been the focus of many discussions and continues to be the source of discussion among industry players and leaders. And in the midst of all this “noise” about skills gap or shortage, manufacturing companies, and the academe – high school and college, have been talking to and collaborating with each other trying to come up with possible solutions to the problem through innovative programs that will help address the skills shortage. Such programs uncover the root causes of the problem namely:

    • Students, teachers, and parents have an inaccurate and negative perception of the manufacturing line of work in general
    • Many high schools don’t offer industrial arts training due to a lack of funding
    • Lack of learning engagement at the high school level compared to previous years

New Degree Offered At Bakershield College
In California, for instance, Bakersfield College is well on its way to offering a new four-year degree in Industrial Automation. Local companies say that students who graduate from this new course will definitely have jobs waiting for them. Local and international businesses in oil, manufacturing, and agriculture confirm that such skills are what they are looking for in new workers.

Skills In Building Products And Technology
Kern Steel Manufacturing’s Blair Pruett said their company is looking for industrial manufacturing engineers – those who have the skills to build products and have a good sense of technology to incorporate into the product being built. Kern Steel Manufacturing is a large company in east Bakersfield. The company’s fabrication shop is highly automated and employees should be able to work without difficulty.

Employees need to have knowledge and skills in:

      • Industrial coding
      • Robotics programming
      • Programming
      • Industrial machinery
      • Industrial processes material

Industrial Automation: New BC Degree
Recognizing the challenge faced by many manufacturing companies, Bakersfield College was announced as one of the 15 community colleges in California with the approval to offer the new course or degree under legislation signed by the Governor last fall.

Big Agricultural Operators 
This is good news for many manufacturing companies in the area. In Kern County, graduates from the new program are targeted by big agricultural operations such as Grimmway Farms. Shem Oesch from Grimmway Farms said that they have collaborated with Kern Community College District on certain training programs. The agricultural company and the college discussed the need for training local workers.

Automated Plant Processes  
Oesch said that the Grimmway plant processes carrots using automation. Because of the limiting labor cost and availability of workers, the plant was forced to use more automation in the processing plant. However, they still require workers with an understanding and knowledge of automation and warehouse technology.

Workers For High-Tech Equipment Operation And Maintenance
There are still high-tech types of equipment such as industrial ovens, RF drying equipment, etc. that require maintenance by the people. And the new degree program fits right into such a type of support role. Currently, Grimmway Plant has a desperate need for these types of jobs. According to Oesch, in his unit alone, he could easily hire 4 to 5 people with the appropriate skills. Throughout the company, more than a dozen workers can be hired. Local agricultural operators have the same worker requirements.

Do you know of any other college or university that offers manufacturing related degree program?

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