Addressing the Future of Manufacturing at WESTEC
Greg Surtman, Workforce Development Strategist, Tooling U-SME on
December 04, 2019
I was fortunate enough to not only attend WESTEC this year, but also
participate as a panelist and moderator, serve as emcee and lead an
interactive Knowledge Bar session. WESTEC has been the leading California
manufacturing event for over 56 years. More than 8,000 manufacturers from
the aerospace, medical, industrial machinery, automotive and fabricated
metal industries come together to participate in world-class exhibits,
industry-led education sessions, and networking events. The show spanned
91,000 square feet and hosted 425+ exhibiting companies.
Over the three days, I was pleased to personally interact with
industry-leading experts and was especially impressed with the line-up of
keynote speakers. Both on and off the show floor, the buzz was about
advanced technology and its impact on the manufacturing workforce.
Our panel discussed ways to provide career exploration experiences in
manufacturing. It is imperative that today’s youth get exposed to the world
of manufacturing, especially the new technology, the new environment and
the accompanying salaries. Panelists discussed “Innovative Ways to Build
Your Workforce Supply Chain” and ways to engage the incoming workforce and
provide skilled talent to an industry in need.” The conversations focused
on the root causes of why manufacturers are unable to find the talent
needed to maintain and grow their business, and the solutions that can
- The fast pace of new technology – From advanced robotics
to artificial intelligence and data science, the new generations, given the
opportunity, are poised to embrace these innovations and flourish in this
manufacturing work environment, but need exposure to the industry to get
- A retiring population – The “silver tsunami” is in full
force, and the new career workforce needs to capture this departing
knowledge while integrating their new ideas and flexible workforce
lifestyle. Onboarding is the key to engaging this important workforce
The inability to get our youth engaged in manufacturing careers
. – Experiential learning is the way to young people’s psyches. Reaching
them in middle school, providing them with industry tours of clean
manufacturing environments, exposing the cool factor of robotics, and
showing them a full career track rather than just an everyday factory job
are ways to get them excited about a future in manufacturing.
vice president of economic and workforce development, College of the
talked about how the Strong Workforce Apprenticeship Group (SWAG) partners
with the resources from COC to provide a model for apprenticeships
specifically for Southern California. By using market data to identify
industry shortages, SWAG and COC are better able to design custom career
pathways for apprentices, showing students a direct line to job
opportunities and helping potential employees eliminate the guesswork.
Julianna Kirby, director of client services/COO, Training Funding
Jessica Ku Kim, director of workforce development, Los Angeles County
Economic Development Corp.,
showed us how Tooling U-SME’s strategic partner AeroFlex created
pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs specifically for aerospace
manufacturers. Training for an industry that works in complex systems of
communication, autonomy, advanced manufacturing processes, robotics and
artificial intelligence is exciting to the new tech-savvy individuals.
Don McKinzie, manager of production operations, Northrup Grumman,
gave us an employer’s perspective. He found that pre-apprenticeship is a
great way to give kids experience and encourage them to show up – which
they did! Once McKinzie’s pre-apprenticeship had captured the kids’
attention, their transition to an apprenticeship program proved to be a
viable way to meet his workforce needs.
Additional conversations and presentations that led to energized
discussions throughout the conference:
Leaders from the greater Long Beach area came together to discuss how
they could stimulate the local economy by attracting new high-tech
manufacturing and providing online tools to increase access to local
resources. One interesting approach was to maximize existing city assets,
such as abandoned buildings, and use their infrastructure for future sites
of new business.
The Knowledge Bar gave me an opportunity to lead an intimate discussion
on how manufacturing can become more involved in providing career
exploration to middle and high school students. The consensus again was
youth engagement through experiences, with the most popular being
manufacturer-hosted student visits.
Brian Beaulieu, CEO and chief economist for ITR Economics presented “The
Economic Outlook for Manufacturing through 2023”. He shared insights on the
impact of automation on the job supply and the imminent need for a higher
skill set. Beaulieu also talked about how college degrees have changed, and
how students should make choices centered on industry needs, evaluating
whether their degree selections are in demand now and will be in the
WESTEC, once again, did not disappoint. With economic and industry leaders
providing up-to-date insights, trends in manufacturing and advice on what not to do if you want to sustain in the future, the crowd was
energized to move forward and continue to tackle the skills gap with new
ideas and creative approaches to workforce challenges.
AeroFlex, aerospace, apprenticeship, "artificial intelligence", "career exploration", COC, "College of the Canyons", "economic outlook for manufacturing through 2023", "engaging the youth", "future of manufacturing", "Industry 4.0 new technology", pre-apprenticeship, "retiring population", robotics, "Strong Workforce Apprenticeship Group", SWAG, "Tooling U-SME", WESTEC, "workforce supply chain"