Report says manufacturers can heal themselves

Milwaukee-based global workforce solutions company ManpowerGroup is advising U.S. manufacturers to solve their skills gap by working collaboratively to create private-public sector task forces to create a new pipeline of talent.

“Innovative manufacturing and prototyping enterprises are growing in the U.S., but hiring in manufacturing is not as robust as we’d like to see,” said Jonas Prising, president of ManpowerGroup. “Contemporary U.S. manufacturing means highly unique and relevant design, however, many manufacturers can’t find the skilled talent needed to competitively accelerate their R&D, CAD/CAM and production cycles, which are required for staying competitive in the Human Age.”

Manpower created a Manufacturing Challenge Council to foster this kind of group problem solving in February. Manufacturing employers, trade groups, educators and government leaders met to discuss the issues facing the industry and the skills that were missing in the labor force.

The small groups honed in on the idea of rebranding manufacturing to attract younger workers to the industry and creating partnerships to increase the industry’s visibility to the general public.

“Working together, employers and educators can bring added focus and prestige to increasingly technical manufacturing roles, ultimately attracting more young people to these important professions,” said Jorge Perez, senior vice president, North America. “Most people don’t realize that careers in manufacturing today are innovative and creative and require not only high-level skills to operate technical equipment and machines, but also problem-solving and collaborative skills to drive results. Techs in manufacturing are in demand and individuals with the right skills and certification can count on steady employment and excellent earning potential. We need to encourage more young people to see manufacturing as a career path. At the same time, manufacturers need to reach out to young people and build collaborative training alliances with educators to sustain a high-skilled labor pool for years to come.”

According to “Closing the Manufacturing Skills Gap,” an executive briefing compiled by Manpower and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Foundation, the number of manufacturing jobs in the United States grew 4.3 percent from 2010 to 2013, but analysts said overall growth in manufacturing is being held back by a lingering skills gap.

A Deloitte/NAM survey estimates the shortage of U.S. manufacturing workers at 600,000.

The executive briefing suggested four key strategies for manufacturers to close their skills gap:

  • Partner with community colleges to provide students with the skills they will need. “It’s up to us as employers to make sure that the people come out of those institutions trained and ready for the manufacturing jobs that are unfilled,” said Yonnie Leung, senior manager for workforce development at Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) Corp. in San Francisco.
  • Create an apprenticeship program.
  • Work with a nonprofit coalition. An example of this kind of collaboration in southeastern Wisconsin is the collaboration between Second Chance Partners and the Council of Small Business Executives (COSBE).
  • Make credentials portable. Certification is becoming an effective way to gauge workers’ skills and make them more portable among jobs, according to the report.

Additional proactive actions manufacturers can take, according to the report, include: reaching out to high school students; use demographic risk management and workforce planning tools to anticipate issues and enlarge the pool of potential candidates; and reinvest in internal training programs; match younger talent with experienced employees in an apprenticeship model.

ManpowerGroup will host several more Manufacturing Challenge Council events throughout the country this year to open conversations between local groups.

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