‘Made in the USA’: How Your Company Can Address the Manufacturing Skills Gap

America is focused on bolstering its manufacturing and working hard to put out more products with the words “Made in the USA” stamped on the tag. This is all fine and great, but have these words come true? Has American manufacturing truly been revitalized?

The shortage of workers – let alone those who are trained in the most up-to-date technological advancements – poses a threat to the industry. As a result, the manufacturing field has had to tackle its skills gap head-on. The field of manufacturing is growing and ever-changing; new technologies and innovations are always being discovered, thus expanding the industry. However, the stubborn problem of a lack of skilled workers remains, and what good is an expanding industry without those who can run it?

To expand the pool of skilled workers, many manufacturing communities are taking a long, hard look at the youth population; offering apprenticeships and internships for high school and college-aged kids is a very beneficial way to peak the interest of these students to consider a career in manufacturing. Not only that, it is a very efficient way to create a bigger workforce base for manufacturing companies looking for employees.

Bradley Corporation partners with GPS Education Partners to offer apprenticeships

Take, for example, Plumbing Manufacturers International member Bradley Corporation; According to Bradley’s careers webpage, the company offers a formal apprenticeship program, paid internships, and a high school youth apprenticeship program it formed in partnership with GPS Education Partners.” Bradley Corporation is a great example of what companies can do to train and develop the workforce of tomorrow to be skilled and ready to be deployed across the U.S.

While American manufacturers position themselves for growth, students still have limited exposure to technical training, which means that not enough of them are choosing manufacturing careers. GPS Education Partners (GPS) helps educators, businesses and communities to work together to close the workforce gap. Companies like Bradley Corporation who work in partnership with GPS make the goal of “Closing the Gap” much more attainable.

Each school year, Bradley opens its Menomonee Falls facility to high school juniors and seniors who take academic classes in its onsite education center during morning hours, and work for an hourly apprentice wage within the company’s plan during afternoons. Bradley is one of 11 educational centers in Wisconsin to provide onsite classroom centers and factory work as partners of the GPS program. Bradley also has a similar program with Arrowhead Union High School, which has a design engineering manufacturing program.

GPS works with the partner companies to recruit and develop the next generation of talent based on the skills that each individual company needs. GPS experts identify areas within an organization where apprentices can learn and develop hard and soft skills that align to business needs. GPS also offers to pass along valuable training to mentors who assist young people in picking up valuable skills.

Plummeting unemployment does not equal a growing workforce

Though the United States may boast falling unemployment numbers, that is only a scratch on the surface. These figures do not equal a workforce that is gaining in numbers. For example, though labor metrics are on the upswing statewide in New York, officials are puzzled as to how they can get their local workforces to trend in the same direction, reports Oswego County News Now. Though the state’s unemployment rate is currently at only 3.9%, these numbers don’t take into account the number of underemployed individuals who are not making enough to support their needs.

Employers find there to be a gap between what they need and the education of the workforce, and New York is feeling this heavily: 41% of New Yorkers’ training taps out at the high school level. The workforce manufacturing field is in need of a “renaissance,” so to speak, so that any region in the U.S. may supply the skilled workforce that the evolving manufacturing field needs. Educational infrastructure is one way to develop and promote a region to manufacturers, but this is not enough.

Playbook provides a guide to manufacturing workforce development

There is a fantastic resource called the Manufacturing Workforce Development Playbook available in PDF form from the National Institute of Standards and Technology that dives into every aspect of how the manufacturing field may be developed and why. Offering apprenticeships and challenging current employees to learn new skills are two great ways to develop a workforce. Taking these actions can help develop in-house capabilities needed to work on new, sophisticated equipment, for example, and also encourage those who are retiring to pass their skills along to younger workers.

Whether or not a company provides workforce training and development is a critical element in the decision-making process when in people are selecting where to work; companies offering comprehensive training keep individuals up-to-task in the latest innovations and updates in the industry.

Making opportunities available opportunities for those who want to get started in the industry is also important, and that’s why apprenticeships with manufacturing companies offering cutting-edge training are so important. There are also programs located across the country that attract people to giant manufacturing projects, such as Quick Start, Georgia; the Kentucky Skills Network; and FastStart Louisiana, reports Gray Construction on its blog.

Other programs are out there, but it takes a little more digging. If your company wants to attract talent, the first step is to create opportunities that are attractive to the talent. Nothing speaks more loudly and clearly than offering the chance to make a good livelihood working with good people with the skills you enjoy using.