Domestic Quandary: Factories Needs Workers But Workers Need Training

Training Partnerships Groom Workforce for High-tech Manufacturing

Manufacturers are looking for control operators and engineers, but a dearth of qualified workers plagues the industry.

Although unemployment remains high, there are companies looking for employees. The notion may seem counterintuitive, but it’s true. The Manufacturing Institute reports some 600,000 unfilled manufacturing positions, and despite the masses looking for jobs, many factories are still floundering to fill vacancies.

A 2011 survey from the Manufacturing Institute found that 74 percent of manufacturers said a lack of skilled workers—like machinists, control operators, distributers and technicians—hinders productivity. Consequently, over half of the manufacturers surveyed (51 percent) said the shortage of skilled labor available makes it harder to meet customer demands. But, if there are unskilled workers hungry for jobs and technical jobs that need to be filled—there’s only one solution. We must equip them with the skills.

Harper College in Palatine, Illinois had the same idea. The community college is teaming up with local manufacturing companies to teach technical skills in the classroom, which is followed by a paid internship in the field. Training partnerships like these are emerging all over the U.S. But there are other training options available too, even for high-tech manufacturing. Online instrumentation training is another way to give potential workers the highly detailed and technical skills needed for open factory jobs.

The lack of unskilled manufacturing workers is a nationwide problem. Nearly 20 percent of Oregon’s gross state product comes from manufacturing, yet there’s still an evident skills gap due to a dearth of qualified candidates. This makes the competition incredibly stiff for non-experienced workers without instrumentation and control training. Good machinists are snatched up quickly, making the field ripe with opportunity for those who are interested in control operator training and instrumentation training. The field is also reliable; it’s clear America needs and will continue to need manufacturing to keep chugging.

Consumer goods manufacturing may never be firmly entrenched in American cities like it used to be, but heavy equipment manufacturing still flourishes here. But if we’re to keep supporting domestic manufacturing, we need lots of training partnerships and programs to recover the workforce. We also need to start encouraging children and teens to consider a future in manufacturing.

Kettle Moraine High School in Wales, Wisconsin participates in a program that teaches students skills necessary for manufacturing jobs. By the time these kids graduate high school they can weld and read blueprints. Top that off with advanced control training or engineering skills—and as a job candidate for manufacturing—young adults are prime for the picking.

If more training partnerships target youth, perhaps future generations will fill the rising demand for high-tech manufacturing gigs.

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