Industry-Education Partnerships Help Solve the Manufacturing Skills Gap

Posted By: Jeannine Kunz, Chief Workforce Development Officer, SME on November 13, 2018

Jeannine Kunz, Vice President, Tooling U-SME

Emerging technologies and partnerships were the overarching theme at this year’s National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers’ (NCATC) recent 30 th-anniversary conference. Smart Manufacturing, Industry 4.0 and work-based learning were catalysts for discussions about training a new generation, bringing trainers up-to-speed with new technology and providing manufacturers with flexible solutions for workforce education.

At the conference, I had the opportunity to present a new report on the state of manufacturing – the Tooling U-SME’s Industry Pulse: 2018 Manufacturing Workforce Study. Even though manufacturers are well aware of the pressing exodus of skilled workers, the report shows that 76 percent of those surveyed do not have a talent development strategy for manufacturing employees.

With that in mind, NCATC brought more than 200 community colleges, manufacturers and workforce agencies together to ask questions and share solutions about structuring training to move workforce education forward.

Mary Ann Pacelli, workforce director at the National institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Roy Swift, executive director of Workcred, shared data from a recently released report discussing the value of industry-recognized credentials and certifications, and credit for prior learning. They examined how credentials are currently being used in hiring and retention practices and how their standardized criteria for knowledge, skills, competencies and abilities, streamline the process for hiring or promoting within. Recommendations from the report included, expanding the use of quality standards for credentials, adding an employability skills component to existing and new credentials and creating credentials that focus on performance. Credentials and certifications were also found to help potential employees explore career paths and attract them to specific job roles.

Montez King, executive director at the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) and Dr. Rebecca Lake, Ed.D, dean of workforce and economic development at Harper College, talked about the importance of providing apprenticeships to fill the skills gap. Harper College was one of the first in the nation to sponsor a Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeship (RA), making it easier for manufacturers to bypass paperwork and get straight to the business of recruiting and training employees. NIMS recently introduced the Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program (IRAP) which gives employers the freedom to design a modular apprenticeship program specifically targeting their needs. Both approaches provide incredible opportunities for manufacturers to upskill incumbent workers or employ new workers on a regular and steady basis.

By leveraging all available the resources available and focusing on the strengths provided by various educational institutions and workforce organizations, manufacturers will have an easier time vetting, training and hiring new employees and upskilling current employees to help fill the skills gap.

Tags: apprenticeships, "Harper College", "industry 4.0", "industry-recognized credentials", "manufacturing skills gap", MEP, NCATC, "NIMS certifications", partnerships, "smart manufacturing", "Tooling U-SME", "work-based learning", "workforce education"