There has been a great deal of attention paid to the skills gap facing American manufacturers. We all know that many young people shy away from STEM education and they have a distorted, grimy, perception of manufacturing employment and careers.
This fact is highlighted in a recent video from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). The young people featured in this short film are obviously pretty bright but are not knowledgeable about manufacturing or technical careers. Some of the statistics that are cited in this video are quite interesting. Over 17 million people are employed in manufacturing and on average the compensation for these careers exceeds $77,000. So while the jobs are there and they pay well, young people show little if any interest. According to NAM, 18-24 years olds rank manufacturing 5 out of 7 for career preferences. However, more than 80% believe manufacturing is important to our economy and standard of living.
The skills gap needs to be addressed before we can develop the engineers and technicians of the future. A study from The National Defense Industrial Association reported that between 5th and 12th grade, 74% of the children do not have access to or interest in STEM the coursework they need to thrive in today's advanced manufacturing environment. Without this baseline education, our young people will not be qualified to fill the highly technical careers that are now the benchmark of a manufacturing environment.
Many companies are addressing this gap by working with local educators and school administrators to support and encourage STEM education. Some organizations partner with workforce development agencies to identify and groom future manufacturing candidates. Still others are using the “old” model of apprenticeships to grow their own talent internally.
Recently, NAM conducted a Talent Development Roundtable as a part of their initiative to drive education innovation and promote manufacturing careers. The product of this collaboration between educators and industry is called the Manufacturing Skills Certification System. These standards will help companies validate the workforce readiness of new employees and interns. This certification system assesses technical skills across 14 sectors of advanced manufacturing. NAM is now working to develop standards that will be applicable to higher–level education and industry specific occupations.
This infographic from NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership concisely illustrates the gravity of this issue.
Is your company experiencing the impact of the STEM skills gap? How are you addressing this issue?