SME Releases a National Action Plan to Reverse the Skills Gap
By Sarah A. Webster
Editor in Chief
CHICAGO— The manufacturing industry could have a shortage of 10 million workers by 2020 if the nation does not address the crisis in manufacturing education, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) said today during a press conference at the 2012 International Manufacturing Technology Show.
The Society put forth a national action plan – “Workforce Imperative: A Manufacturing Education Strategy” – that calls on educators, professional organizations and government to coordinate and standardize efforts aimed at reversing the skills gap crisis and preparing workers for available high-tech manufacturing jobs.
“We must attract young people to the rewarding opportunities … that exist in manufacturing and then provide them with the educational foundation necessary to succeed,” said SME 2012 President LaRoux K. Gillespie, Dr. Eng., FSME, CMfgE, PE, retired quality manager of Honeywell’s Federal Manufacturing & Technologies Division. He painted a dire picture of what could happen if the problem isn’t fixed, saying that companies, then communities and then the nation could lose out on opportunities.
There are more than 600,000 available manufacturing jobs now, and SME President and CEO Mark Tomlinson said that ups and downs in monthly jobs numbers for manufacturing don’t capture the good-paying opportunities available for workers now. He said workers that enter the field can expect to make an annual salary of between $45,000 a year to over six figures, depending on the type of career they pursue.
Dr. Lazaro Lopez, a principal at Wheel High School in Illinois, spoke eloquently at the event about students whose lives were changed after they were educated for good-paying jobs in manufacturing. Wheeling High School, about 20 miles northwest of Chicago, is a US Department of Education Blue Ribbon School and one of only six schools selected from a nationwide search to participate in the Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education (PRIME) program, sponsored by the SME Education Foundation.
Among the findings in SME’s white paper:
1. Attract more students into manufacturing
2. Articulate a standard core of manufacturing knowledge
3. Improve the consistency and quality of manufacturing education
4. Integrate manufacturing topics into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education
5. Develop faculty that deliver a world-class manufacturing education
6. Strategically deploy resources to accomplish these goals
Jeannine Kunz, director of professional development at Tooling U, said manufacturers frequently approach her with difficulties they have filling vacancies and noted that Tooling U is working hard to make sure those jobs are filled with well-educated workers. She also emphasized the need for standardization in education so manufacturers understand the skills workers have when they graduate from various manufacturing programs.
Attendance at IMTS is expected to surpass 90,000 this week.
For more information about SME’s Workforce Imperative report, go to www.sme.org/workforceimperative.