A common refrain I often hear, and read about, is the lack of a quality pool of technically skilled employees to draw from when it comes time for hiring. Take a look at any manufacturing news site out there and you’re bound to see it yourself: skills gap, lack of training, unprepared candidates, etc. Heck, jump to some of the better CNC machine forums and read first hand attempts at hiring that sound more like some demented David Lynch scene than a run-in with an unqualified applicant. Joking aside, it’s a real concern for not only the larger manufacturing behemoths but also the smaller independent shop looking to expand and fill needed roles.
When it comes time to hire we all hope to land a great applicant, one not only with technical skills and experience, but the wherewithal and common sense to do the job right. As many of you can attest there are a lot of us grey beards in the shop these days. Not to say that is a bad thing at all: we come with years of knowledge, know-how, and experience. But we understand that keeping our trade healthy and alive means bringing in the younger generation of able bodied men and women. So where are they, how do we go about drawing them in, and how do we ensure they’ve had the proper fundamentals and training to ensure a successful and productive path?
Manufacturing Training Programs
I’d be a liar if I said I had an answer to this tricky bit of business. I started out on a used CNC machine, being mentored from the ground up; pushing the broom, measuring parts, doing set-ups, change overs, CNC repairs…well before I was ever let loose on a “real” job. While we’d all love to be able to mentor a new hire (and some of us still do) it’s often not practical. The costs, the time, ,and the propensity for the situation to simply not work out. Seems the nature of our business is that by the time we need to hire someone, we need to do it yesterday, so we’re in need of someone with skills and experience that can quickly get up to speed.
I’d like to share a couple of articles I came across today on this subject.
This article from The Modern Machine Shop gives us a bit of flashback to the manufacturing climate in the 1990’s and 2000. It illustrates how the outsourcing of manufacturing, the lack of manufacturing investment in supplemental training for employees, and the push for non-manufacturing college degrees culminated in the decimation of new manufacturing talent.
There is a bright side to the article. It lay out the pro-active moves between a number of industry’s and a local college to reinvigorate the training and acquisition of new manufacturing talent. It’s motivating to read about a program that not only helps fortify the industry I know and love, but to know that it’s some real training here: no light-weight diy cnc hobby here. These trainees put in the work. Read for yourself.
Want to continue with that good feeling?
This article from Forbes ( “CEO Takes Action On Manufacturing Skills Gap” ) touches upon many of the same issues and takes some of the same sorts of approaches. Using Germany’s apprenticeship system as a model, CEO Tom Hudson of nth/works used his own team and resources to create an apprenticeship program that gives high school students hands on technical training and know-how.
From the article:
…providing them with hands-on, paid training in five areas of manufacturing: welding and automation; tool and die making; tooling design; CNC machining; and kaizen, a Japanese manufacturing philosophy devoted to continuous improvement.
These students spend two and a half months working in each specification and upon completion can pursue secondary training, begin looking for work, or become a part of the program.
Motivating to read indeed. I recommend checking it out.
While I don’t have the solution to our manufacturing woes and talent shortages, I do believe programs like the ones outlined above go a long way toward instilling the fundamentals of our industry in qualified applicants. In many ways I believe programs like the above not only cut the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, but incentivize younger people toward manufacturing. Just read Jocelyn Salinas quote at the end of the Forbes article where she talks about creating air block cylinders if you don’t believe me. But what about you? Do you believe programs such as these can help alleviate the poor quality of candidates many of us encounter?