Addressing Manufacturing Workforce Challenges: Our Future In Peril


By Dan Berry, President and CEO, MAGNET

Few conversations we here at MAGNET have with manufacturers about their operating challenges get very far without workforce considerations emerging as a central problem.  Unfortunately, we have learned that there are multiple dimensions to these challenges and that no single solution will fix them.

At one level, primarily among those companies looking for moderately skilled entry level workers, we often hear these sentiments.  “We’ll train them.  Just give us individuals who have basic reading, writing and math skills, who understand what it means to work, that show up every day on time, can follow directions, work as a member of a team and can pass a drug test. ”

Here is another refrain we often hear:  “The average age in my skilled workforce is 55 plus.  I am going to lose all my (insert machinists, welders, etc.) over the next several years and there is no source of replacements in sight.”

Other companies talk about the difficulty they’re having with finding highly skilled talent, often in various engineering disciplines.

So, the range of workforce challenges runs the gamut of education in the U.S. from what’s necessary in K-12 education to build the foundation for the workforce to the technical and community colleges, which develop the knowledge and applied skills, on up to what happens in our four year colleges to develop the highly educated professional.  One clear need across the educational spectrum is for more focus on the STEM disciplines—science, technology, engineering and math.

In Cleveland, MAGNET has joined with several community partners to focus more attention on STEM in a variety of ways. In addition, we have tackled the varied workforce challenges by addressing two related factors—quantity and quality.

Our work on quantity is aimed at building a pipeline of prospective workers interested in manufacturing careers.  Much of this has been through our Ambassador Program which involves marketing, media and educational programming with K-12 students, their parents and teachers to increase awareness about the great careers available in manufacturing.  In addition, we have worked with particular population groups, such as returning veterans, to interest them in, prepare them for, and connect them with, manufacturing career opportunities.

With regard to quality, one of major initiatives has been to work extensively with the National Association of Manufacturers’ (NAM) Manufacturing Institute on advancing a skill standards continuum from primary and secondary education to higher education.  The objective is to promote the use of an industry-based skills certification system that relies on competencies and standards that establish a common language to guide training, education and hiring.  We’re also involved with advancing several other projects, including the Automotive Manufacturing Technical Education Collaborative (AMTEC) and the Steel-Worker for the Future, which are based on the skills-standards approach.

Our experience thus far is surfacing some principles that we think are useful in responding to workforce issues regardless of where they are on the spectrum of challenges.

  • Engage employers directly in the problem definition and design of solutions
  • Build a commonly shared definition of the skills required that can be used to drive design of curricula and training programs.
  • Tie the formal training and education to various types of what is called “experiential learning”.  This means finding ways to connect the classroom learning with hands on work experience.  Internships, co-op education and apprenticeships are examples of this approach.

Unless we figure out how to address the various types of workforce challenges, the future of our manufacturing base is in peril.

We would love to hear from readers on which, if any, of these perspectives and principles reflect their company’s experience in addressing workforce challenges.  Are there other issues that we should be addressing?   We also would welcome your suggestions about best practice programs or strategies that we should be trying to emulate. Please comment below or drop me a note at dan.berry@magnetwork.org with your comments and ideas.

The Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network (MAGNET) exists solely to help manufacturing companies in Northern Ohio become more competitive and grow. MAGNET is an Ohio Edison Technology Center, a contractor with the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership program administered through the Ohio Department of Development, and a part of the regional economic development system in Northeast Ohio.

Print
Posted by MAGNET Ohio in Workforce-Development

Most Recent

Top 10 Sited Safety and Health Violations

December 13, 2017 by Gwido Dlugopolsky

One remarkable thing about the list is that it rarely changes.  The order may change but the top cited standards typically don’t change. Top 10 Sited Safety and Health Violations: 501 - Fall Protection 1200 - Hazard Communication 451 - Scaffolding 134 - Respiratory Protection 147 - Lockout/Tagout 178 - Powered Industrial Trucks 1053 - Ladders 305 - Electrical, Wiring Methods 212 - Machine Guarding 303 - Electrical, General Requirements Three of the 10 sited standards are directed at the construction standard (1926) while other fall within the general industry (1910).  It should be noted however that the general industry standard also has fall protection guidelines. Year after year, inspectors see the same on-the-job hazards, any one of which could result in a fatality or severe injury. More than 4,500 workers are killed on the job every year, and approximately 3 million are injured. By understanding these regulations you can improve your safety program and prevent injuries. Give me a call if you have any compliance doubts, or want to review OHSA regulations. Gwido Dlugopolsky at 216-391-7766 or gwido.dlugopolsky@magnetwork.org

Complete ANY Changeover in 10 Minutes or LESS

December 11, 2017 by Gwido Dlugopolsky

Why does it take a NASCAR pit crew only 15 seconds to change four car tires when it takes people like you and me minutes? The answer is simple SMED. Single Minute Exchange of Dies, or SMED, is a process for reducing the time it takes to do equipment changeovers. Using the principles of SMED you should be able to perform any changeover in your facility in under 10 minutes! The SMED process is simple – convert as many changeover steps as possible to “external”, meaning they are done while your equipment is still RUNNING, while simplifying and streamlining the remaining steps. SMED is broken down into the following 3 Steps: Separate Convert Streamline We found this article to be very helping in explaining the SMED process in more detail: LEAN PRODUCTION - SMED           A good first step to achieve this level of SMED efficiency would be to run a kaizen event at your facility to standardize (5S) your tools and supplies. Doing this alone will help you achieve 40% to 50% greater efficiency. Once the “low hanging fruit” is gone, you can still reduce setup times another 20% by practicing more advanced SMED principles.

Coffee is STILL for Closers: 3 Things Needed to Close Any Sale

December 07, 2017 by Sam Wasylyshyn

The secret to closing any sale is to reduce uncertainty in the buyer and replace it with confidence in YOU, your PRODUCT/SERVICE, and your COMPANY. Step 1 – Confidence in YOU Someone buying from you wants to be able to fundamentally connect with you on a human level and feel confident that you’re an expert in what you’re selling If you’re selling paperclips, be an expert in paperclips If you’re selling design and engineering related services, be an expert in design and engineering related services Focus on addressing the problem, not the solution….MEANING you already know you have the solution, connect with the buyer by being an expert with the problem he/she is facing. Prove that you know the problem and all aspects of the problem like the back of your hand. Step 2- Confidence in the PRODUCT/SERVICE you are selling Someone buying from you needs to trust the product/service you are selling will solve their problem. It’s your responsibility to deliver a solution and the benefits associated with it. Basically you need to “Hit a Homerun” communicating this message. Tip – Use Success Stories: Share with the potential buyer examples of your product/service solving problems and delivering value for