Will Student Manufacturing Programs Really Shrink The Skills Gap?

As an increasing number of manufacturing professionals are retiring and new technologies will require employment of young, tech-savvy individuals, many companies are concerned about where that talent will come from. Manufacturing groups are stressing the importance of recruiting a new generation of skilled workers into manufacturing, but are educators, students, and their parents, all on the same page? Even if they are, do STEM and trade education initiatives really making a difference?

A Pressing And Resilient Issue
Such initiatives are not sprung from a lack of need. It’s clear that America’s manufacturing industry is facing a real problem.While job numbers are still lower than they were before the recession, about 15% lower than in 2005, there’s still an average of 68,000 manufacturing jobs that go unfilled month after month.

Apprentice numbers have fallen by nearly half between 2007 and 2013. And while they rose about ten percent in 2014, believed to be a response to the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act, the sector still faces a pressing and resilient issue.

IFImage Source:  Wikimedia

Portraying The Reality Of Manufacturing
Much of the challenge comes in the form of a familiar misconception; one that a better understanding of manufacturing technologies could easily dispel. Students, and often their parents, share the outdated notion of manufacturing as dirty, menial, and repetitive, without much opportunity for high wages and only limited potential for growth.

The reality of manufacturing is quite the contrary in the majority of cases. With automation and streamlined processes taking the dirty and dismal aspects of production out of human hands, manufacturing is looking for programmers, designers, engineers and innovative young minds with a STEM education. The very technology that has and is changing the sector is a major reason why that new talent is so critically needed.

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Are We Educating The Right Generation?
Even if more young people are gaining a better grasp of that thanks to what they learn and school and introductory trade programs, the real trick appears to be getting their parents on board with the prospects of a job in this new age of manufacturing. One can’t help but wonder if student manufacturing programs will continue to make all that much of a difference when it comes to shrinking the skills gap. Perhaps, the real future of manufacturing will be in helping the previous generation learn what the sector has to offer its children.

What are your thoughts on this issue. Have you noticed common misconceptions about manufacturing when you’ve tried to fill jobs at your facility? Share your input in the comments.

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