Throughout the U.S., unemployment is at an all-time low. While this is good news for the country at large, it is complicating matters for employers in the manufacturing industry who are looking to hire. The challenge to hire skilled workers remains a problem throughout manufacturing with 78 percent of manufacturers citing a lack of qualified candidates. This deficiency is one of the top two factors impacting the ability to hire a skilled workforce, according to Tooling U-SME, a provider of competency-based learning and development solutions for the manufacturing community.

The deficit of a skilled workforce also means manufacturers that are unable to fill these positions are experiencing a loss in productivity and quality losses, which impacts the company’s overall ability to grow. While such issues are well-established, more than half of companies surveyed, 54 percent, still do not have plans in place to address the skills gap and only 18 percent have defined workplace roles based on competencies, experiences, education and cultural fit.

Priority No. 1

Full employment of skilled workers is one of the most important ways for a manufacturer to remain competitive, viable and contribute to the economy. Although manufacturers will have to determine their in-house needs and create their own competency models, there is some help when it comes to solving workplace issues such as financial backing provided through the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grants Program.

Another more immediate option for creating opportunities is establishing an apprenticeship program. This is an initiative that provides employees with on-the-job training while earning a paycheck. Apprenticeships are often a good option for companies looking to attract new employees to an organization or to provide re-training efforts to loyal employees who are looking to expand their skill set. Apprenticeships also appeal to students who are looking to explore a new industry, prefer hands-on learning options or may not be on a college track after high school.

Building Partnerships

Manufacturers curious about setting up an apprenticeship program should look at partnering with community colleges, non-profits and trade schools in their area. In many cases, these educational institutions receive funds from the Labor Department as part of an initiative of the Obama Administration tasked with doubling the number of apprenticeships, 34,000, between 2014 and 2019. Apprenticeships combine classroom learning with on-the-job training from a mentor. Tuition for students is typically covered by an employer or through a grant.

Intro to the Industry

The upcoming National Manufacturing Day on Oct. 5 offers an opportunity for manufacturers to work with local education and non-profit partners to gauge the interest of creating an apprenticeship program. Manufacturing Day events, which take place throughout the month of October, are the perfect way to introduce a new generation to the manufacturing industry and look for candidates who could be a good fit for an apprenticeship program in the future.

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