The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced funding of over $175 million for community colleges to grow and enhance their manufacturing education and training programs. Part of the $500 million 2012 Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) Grants Program awards, this funding is intended to make it easier for manufacturers to have access to talented individuals with a good education and advanced skills.
For valve, control and actuator manufacturers, this should be welcome news, as the skills gap will become increasingly evident when the so-called “Baby Boomer” generation retires in a few years. I’ve talked to many managers over the last couple of years who tell me they’ve had to woo back more than a few good employees who were planning on retiring. There are just simply not enough young people with the right training.
According to Jennifer McNelly, president of The Manufacturing Institute, these grants to Community Colleges will enable students to earn the skills they need to access and advance in manufacturing jobs and support schools in building quality, relevant manufacturing programs that offer individuals industry-based certifications.
The problem is more than just the education system, though, or the way community colleges designed their curriculum in the past. As one “old timer” said to me recently, “Ours is not glamorous work. It’s not Silicone Valley or Wall Street. You get dirty out here, you get hot and sweaty. A lot of these kids have grown up with cell phones and video games and stories of striking it rich by creating apps. Why would they want to work in a factory?”
While that may have been an issue before, you would think that, with all the news of unemployment numbers staying high and economic recovery being slower than we’d hoped, there would be a lineup of people waiting to get good manufacturing jobs. In fact, there might be many people wanting to do that, but how are they going to get into these programs in the schools?
Many people simply don’t have the money to get into these programs. Whatever savings many families had for education was depleted when the economy tanked, so no matter how good the education might be, there’s no realistic way to finance it. Is this where the manufacturers come in, maybe with apprenticeship programs or other creative strategies to help potential employees get the training they need?