Making Career Development a Priority in America

Posted By: Jeannine Kunz, Vice President, Tooling U-SME on October 10, 2018

Making Career Development a Priority in America

Manufacturers in America and around the globe are experiencing challenges finding skilled workers to fill available openings. Although there is optimism for sustained growth in the industry, the sector continues to face retirements and technology advancements that further impact the shortage of skilled workers. Another factor interfering with the industry’s progress is low awareness of, or interest in, manufacturing career opportunities among youth.

As baby-boomers exit the workforce and technologies become more cutting-edge, there is certainly opportunity for the next generation to move into vacant positions. Despite this promising outlook, a lot of young people and career counselors don’t know about or have a clear understanding of the jobs and opportunities that exist in manufacturing. We’re seeing a rise in apprenticeships across the nation and certification programs are plentiful; however, too many students and counselors lack important information about these training programs and resources.

To help combat this problem, a broad coalition of national organizations representing government, business and education – including SME – collaborated to form the Coalition for Career Development (CCD), with the intent to create a national movement dedicated to helping all learners become career literate and ready.

In September, I joined several education, business and government leaders from across the country at the CCD’s National Career Development Summit held in Washington, D.C., to kick off a national movement making career development a priority in the American education system. Three other leaders from diverse organizations joined me in a panel discussion focused on how business is advancing career development to ensure all students are prepared to secure productive employment in their chosen career pathway as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.

Much of our dialogue on the panel and throughout the summit centered on findings from a new CCD white paper titled, “Career Readiness for All Students.” Key insights from the white paper show:

  • The nation has devoted relatively few resources to providing quality career development.
  • Because of inadequate self-exploration, career exploration, career planning, and skills development, many students leave high school without a clear plan for their future.
  • These factors also contribute to a labor force/industry skills gap crisis, which more than 90 percent of CEOs see as a serious problem.

Although this is discouraging, there is hope. The coalition has proposed a framework to tackle these issues:

  • Prioritize Planning: Start planning career development activities in middle school and require all students to develop and maintain a personal career and academic plan.
  • Provide Professional Career Advising and Technology: Engage credentialed career advisers and licensed counselors to design career development programs, and provide students with equitable access to current career development technology.
  • Emphasize Applied & Work-Based Learning: Make applied learning and work-based learning an integral part of education.
  • Ensure Accountability: Develop assessments of career readiness to measure students’ career preparation and evaluate schools and colleges.
  • Promote Equity: Help individuals find opportunities for meaningful work, regardless of economic status, disabilities or other risk indicators.

According to the white paper, “…these improvements would produce huge benefits for the students and economy and would far outweigh the investment required to implement.”

Bright futures for the next generation

Historically, manufacturing created wealth, opportunity and a bright future for millions of Americans. We are confident that manufacturing can continue to provide the same opportunities for future generations.

Ensuring a robust and competitive manufacturing sector requires a strong, STEM-capable workforce. Preparing that workforce will provide young men and women with exciting career possibilities and unlimited opportunity for growth and achievement. When we move in this direction, we will make a positive impact on America’s economic vitality in the 21st century and beyond.

Tags: "Career readiness", "Coalition for Career Development", counselors, education, manufacturing, students, technology