Community Partnerships Address Skills Gap

Posted By: Gretchen Shultz, Director of Workforce Development, Tooling U-SME on August 09, 2017

Gretchen Schultz

Many manufacturers face a dual challenge: They are losing business because they can’t find qualified workers to produce the quality products customers need and expect, and they have to turn new business away because they don’t have the capacity to complete the jobs.

This quandary was reinforced at our tuX event this spring when nearly one third of attendees said they do not have access to enough skilled workers to meet their needs. Almost everyone (98 percent) either needs help or is only moderately successful at closing their technical skills gap.

Companies are looking at in-house strategies such as apprenticeship programs and progression planning, but there is an often-overlooked external solution: partnering with the workforce development community for success.

Forward-thinking companies are starting to build their own pipelines to help attract workers – and create strategies to keep them – by connecting with their local high school Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, community colleges, community-based organization, and public workforce system.

Industry needs to connect with these outside groups, not only to find qualified workers but help bring industry-relevant knowledge and skills to future workers. The bottom line is that manufacturers must be involved with creating a flexible solution with all of their community stakeholders — or their efforts may fail.

Only 28 percent have significant collaboration with their community partners with just “satisfactory” results so there is plenty of potential here.

Sometimes the toughest part is just getting started. To help, here are five ways to begin building successful partnerships with the workforce development community in your local area.

Five Ways to Start Building Community Partnerships

1. Join your local high school CTE advisory board. This puts you in an excellent position to offer input on the curriculum to make sure it is industry driven. It also allows you to help students and instructors create real-life work experience. Some manufacturers are working with schools to create “simulated workplaces,” in-school businesses that solicit work, prepare estimates and complete projects. Students learn hard and soft skills to land Registered Apprenticeships and good jobs...hopefully at your company.

2. Engage with local students. To get to know local students/future employees – and develop a reputation as a great workplace — offer tours, internships and summer jobs. Attending job fairs is also an excellent opportunity to showcase your company.

3. Identify needs at local schools. Get to know the administration and instructors and find out how you can help. Consider speaking to a class or inviting students in for a plant tour. Also, consider donating equipment or providing funding.

4. Help reeducate the community about the benefits of manufacturing . To encourage entry into the industry, it is critical to introduce students, counselors, and families to manufacturing career pathways and expose them to the opportunities in modern manufacturing. Look for ways to share this experience. For instance, partner with a local community college program and workforce development agency on a Manufacturing Day event at your facility.

5. Share your expertise. Commit to building the next generation of manufacturers. Encourage your company to identify veterans who are willing to be informal mentors to students or volunteer coaches for a local team competing in SkillsUSA Competition.

The best way to address the skills gap is with a long-term strategy that starts with building a learning culture internally and includes external partnerships. A close relationship with the workforce development community in your area can help ensure a steady pipeline of qualified workers that meets your business needs. And, as word of your innovation, expertise and involvement gets around, you’ll soon become an employer of choice.

If you are interested in forming partnerships to strengthen your workforce, please contact us at 866.706.8665 to learn how we can work together.

Tags: "Career and Technical Education", CTE, "learning culture", manufacturing, "Manufacturing Day", "Registered Apprenticeship", "skills gap", SkillsUSA, tuX, "workforce development"