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.

Add Veterans and Service Members to Your Manufacturing Team

The hiring push in manufacturing offers much opportunity for interested service members, especially if vets are given skills like instrumentation training.

Whether it’s the boatloads of tired veterans and service members coming home to a severe shortage of civilian jobs, or the reports of military families drowning under credit card debt, two organizations are disgruntled enough to take action.

America Wants You [www.americawantsyou.net], an initiative to get corporate employers to find jobs for service members, has teamed up with the 10,000 Jobs Challenge to create more opportunity for military families. The two groups will be knocking on office doors to encourage all kinds of fields to consider veteran applicants and post certain jobs for service members. But given the current hiring push among the manufacturing industry, the 10,000 Jobs Challenge should spread its efforts to power plants. Manufacturing plants require a variety of both general and specific skills, and much can be learned from on-the-job or online industrial training.

Industry-specific training, whether online or on-the-job, often means more to managers and employers than a college degree. For instance, operations and control personnel are much better prepared for the job if they receive some instrumentation and control training. Service members who worked with software or electrical maintenance already have a basic knowledge that could be fine tuned for an instrumentation and control position.

With instrumentation and control training, vets can get familiar with PLCs and learn how to collect accurate measurement data. Depending on their position in the military, they likely already have an eye for detail and the utmost regard for safety procedures. But beyond whether or not veterans and service members could be capable plant workers—and they could—they need the opportunity. Some say they need the chance more than unemployed civilians due to mountains of military debt.

A report by the Financial Industry Regulation Foundation shined an unforgiving light on the poor financial state of many military families. The survey showed 27 percent of participating military families had more than $10,000 worth of credit card debt versus 16 percent of civilian families with similar debt. More than one third of the enlisted or retired members surveyed had a hard time affording their monthly bills, and 10 percent of mortgage borrowers admitted being late on one or more payments in the past two years.

But, with doubled efforts from America Wants You and help from sites like CareerBuilder, hopefully unemployment and debt rates among service members will begin to shrink. The men and women serving our country shouldn’t be the ones suffering from the nation’s economic shortcomings. So, if you’re hiring instrumentation technicians or will be soon, consider reserving jobs for veterans, active duty members, or retirees. They have a well of knowledge and unique experience that can be honed with control training, and frankly, we owe them.

Instrumentation Training: Achieving Safety and Control the Cost-Effective Way

Whether you’re installing, operating, or maintaining large voltage electrical power plants, instrumentation training is paramount to safety and control. As you know, there’s a vast collection of electrical power components for the various control circuits, protective circuits, generators and beyond. And when it comes down to learning the ins-and-outs of AC power theory, diesel engines, and cable splicing, the need for some academic or classroom training is inevitable. Some things must be taught and practiced before they are performed in real scenarios with machinery that’s both expensive and dangerous.

But not all power plant workers have a formal classroom education beyond high school, and many companies can’t even afford to pay for classes at community college prices. The widespread availability of industrial online training, however, makes learning about instrumentation and control systems convenient for anyone with access to a computer. This accessibility for instrumentation training allows your entire team to rehearse protocol so equipment and processes are handled with the utmost safety on a daily basis.

Some managers and instrumentation technicians balk at virtual education, adamant that power plant training is most effective when done in person. But frankly, we can buy our groceries online, pay our bills online, and get the benefits of a classroom education online. It’s a cost-effective method to get basic concepts and fundamental principles out of the way so hands-on learning is that much easier. Instrumentation and control systems technicians also receive a degree of cross training, yet another cost-efficient advantage.

Instrumentation training is even more economically worthwhile because the series cross-trains workers on various topics. Since the roles of electrical maintenance and instrumentation and control systems overlap somewhat, instrumentation training targets both. When your employees have other skills for other positions, they can help educate new workers or provide assistance during transitions. Instrumentation and control systems training is uniquely useful in transitional periods because you’re able to add your power plant-specific information to the curriculum.

Being able to customize your courses and overall industrial training solutions increases safety, regulates control, and helps facilitate your hiring process. New employees are able to learn about actual equipment in your plant and the nuances of your programming. Older employees who may be nearing retirement can impart some of their irreplaceable knowledge before they leave, which can be used to train workers for years to come.

If there are instrumentation wrinkles in your plant, or if it’s about time to reinforce safety and control protocol, training can smooth out the hiccups. Online education will help your team grasp the basics, widen their skills through cross training, and customize their curriculum based on your electrical power plant.

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