Addressing the Skills Gap and Improving the Bottom Line

Judith CrockerThe skills gap in the manufacturing workforce continues to be a challenge. Employers constantly bemoan their inability to get qualified workers, educators convene employers to better understand what they are looking for and develop new programs, and job seekers experience frustration when they are not selected due to lack of skills. It is time to start looking more closely at potential solutions, the role that employers can play, and the value to employers.

Recently reports of successful strategies are starting to emerge. The lessons learned from these successes should be explored for replication and duplication. How do you define and measure success in a way that resonates with all the stakeholders?  Typically, successful placement in vacant positions is one clear measure. Another is assessing the Economic Impact of the placement on the company and measures that affect its bottom line.

One example of a project that did both, is a training program managed by MAGNET in 2011.  The project was designed to determine if the attainment of skill certifications matched to employer requirements would result in a pool of candidates to fill current or projected vacancies in entrylevel positions. Four Ohio sites were selected. The local team was headed by an educational provider and partnered with the local One-Stop that assisted with recruitment of participants.  Selected employers were involved from the beginning. They committed to providing input in the content and delivery of the program, as well as hiring completers to fill vacancies.   Employer involvement included: plant tours, classroom presentations, delivering some of the training, and conducting mock interviews. Program outcomes included attainment of a National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) and the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC) Certified Production Technician credential.

Participating employers expressed their satisfaction with the project and the majority of completers were placed followed training. Follow up was conducted with the employers to gather not only their perception of the project, but also the Economic Impact on key factors affecting their bottom line. Preliminary data provided by six of the companies, indicated over $2M in retained sales, $ 250,000 in increased sales, and over $ 6M in investment in plant or equipment as a result of hiring skilled workers. Additionally, ten jobs were created. Factors included: reduced OJT (On-the-Job-Training) time, improved retention, and increased production due to more quickly promoting incumbent workers as their positions were filled with the new hires.

Although a small project and a small employer feedback sample, this model holds promise as a way to help companies quantify the value of this approach. If employers are able to clearly identify the required skills, and if the training providers can match those with certifications that validate the skills, job seekers can more successfully be prepared, placed and retained. Employers have to be part of the solution and training providers have to be willing to adapt their delivery content and strategies to meet both employer and job seeker needs.

Measuring the economic impact on the company provides a quantifiable way for employers to determine the ROI of their time and effort at the beginning of the job preparation process.

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