IMTS has a federal government proposal that is pending,it will allow the import of workers to fill highly-skilled technical jobs. This proposal points out just one of the major inadequacies of America’s educational and skill training delivery systems. New incentives for job training are just a small part of what is needed. The IMTS program appears to be directed at the unemployed. A major component should contain upgrading skills of current employees. The program will probably fall short of expected goals.
The IMTS Student Summit demonstration will show both owners and potential employees the machines that are now being used in the manufacturing process and what training is needed to operate and maintain the machines.
IMTS demonstration will not only describe what jobs are available but will also direct students to “friendly exhibitors.” These exhibitors will explain the core competencies and advance skill training that students need to develop an educational track leading to a good career. Many educators and industrial curriculum developers have little updated information about the level of technical skills required in manufacturing today. Few teachers, career counselors or recruiters understand that there are no unskilled jobs in any phase of manufacturing today. Another deterrent is that parents would like their children to have a college degree. The student’s admission pass issued by the Summit is valid during the weekend for parents to visit the show and see the high tech demonstrations. Additionally, the IMTS 2008 Summit has invited a number of 2- and 4-year colleges to explain to parents that their sons and daughters can obtain a college education and still work in manufacturing.
Years ago, high school students in Chicago would be hired at a factory and learn from a senior staff member what is required via “on the job” experience. In today’s global competitive market, new employees must join the firm with core competencies. Because these core compentency skills are often not available from local schools, the IMTS 2008 show provides a look at the latest equipment and processing procedures. This allows the student to set his or her sights on a specific career and to learn what education and skills are required to obtain the job and to advance to a higher skill level.
There are growth opportunities with manufacturing and industrial firms. Many firms offer tuition reimbursements in Chicago, and some firms are offering 2 and 3 years apprenticeship programs through the Department of Labor (DOL) apprenticeship program. The DOL program requirements attempt to prepare workers entering the plant with entry level (and beyond) skills and training.
To build a highly skilled and well educated workforce, it would be helpful for all firms to encourage the high schools and community colleges in their respective areas to have students attend the Student Summit at the IMTS 2008 show in Chicago, IL.
Working together, all interested stakeholders can influence federal programs, encourage school administrators to upgrade industrial programs and show students’ parents there are good jobs in manufacturing and a college education in their children'sfuture. These efforts will result in a highly qualified, well-trained workforce that is ready to increase productivity.
Dr. Jerry J. Field—Guest Columnist Illinois Institute of Technology