Gaining, Training, and Retaining the Manufacturing Workforce
By Ellen Kehoe
“If anyone thinks manufacturing is stuck in the ‘Laverne and Shirley’ days, they should see the innovation at this show,” exclaimed first-time IMTS visitor Steve Olson, executive director of SelectUSA (www.selectusa.gov), and one of the speakers at a workforce issues session at IMTS Sept. 12. Other panelists included Greg Jones, VP, Smartforce Development, for the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT), and Raj Batra, president, Industry Automation Division, for Siemens.
The panelists emphasize that even with manufacturing responsible for 11 million direct jobs (and 7 million more in related industries) and 495,000 new jobs in last 30 months, there is still a shortfall of workers for 310,000 skilled jobs.
Among the workforce initiatives encouraged by these and several other organizations, including the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), are: correcting public misperceptions about manufacturing, tapping the talent pool of (up to 1 million) returning veterans, investing in community college level education, developing partnerships to provide modular and portable skills certifications and accreditation, enhancing advanced manufacturing university programs (through new programs and curricula), and launching national manufacturing fellowships and internships (which also help to give national recognition to manufacturing career opportunities).
Jones adds the need to incentivize R&D and innovation in new products and technologies and increase global competitiveness. Progress will come through grants, scholarships and academic challenges for STEM programs; implementation of national manufacturing skills certifications; and a plan to get workers into the workforce sooner through community college programs at a lower overall cost of education.
Siemens’ Batra notes that the worker shortage has a great effect on a company’s and country’s infrastructure health. Retaining deep-domain expertise is important, as well as to develop a high-performance culture. Siemens’ needs for intense engineering and skills expertise are affected by an aging workforce, shrinking supply and skill gaps between current workers and what is needed in the future. This global company, and in collaboration with its customers, starts early and draws from a diverse pool through support for Go PLM, PACE (Partners for the Advancement of Collaborative Engineering Education), high school internships, science days, Plantville (like Farmville—23,000 players in 153 countries) and FIRST Robotics (participants are two times more likely to major in STEM).
Siemens has hired 500 veterans in the last 12 months (“leaders of people, experienced, talented, ready to start on day one”) and supports worker affinity groups and diversity and inclusion programs. Its structured and unstructured mentoring program is essential to retaining talent and empowering employees to succeed and lead.
“The most effective talent program is showing employees the vision of how technology can change the world,” says Batra.