Deloitte Survey: If Skilled Workers Are Elusive, Competitive Advantage Will Be Too

Not to keep repeating myself like a broken record, but the issue of manufacturing skills and education is one that must be definitively addressed, at government, corporate and academic levels and fast. If you haven’t noticed, I feel this is such a key issue that it’s become one of my pet beats, so to speak. So when I came across another study and report on the topic, I couldn’t resist giving it some coverage on MetalMiner.

600,000 Manufacturing Positions Unfilled

Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute (a NAM affiliate dedicated to the challenges presented by the issue I outlined above) came together to survey 1,123 manufacturing-company executives and published the results in a report titled “Boiling Point? The Skills Gap in US Manufacturing.

Among the telling findings:

  • 67 percent of manufacturers have a moderate to severe shortage of available, qualified workers
  • 56 percent anticipate the shortage to increase in the next three to five years
  • The unfilled jobs are mainly in the skilled production category: machinists, operators, craft workers, distributors and technicians
  • 64 percent of respondents report that workforce shortages or skills deficiencies in production roles are having a significant impact on their ability to expand operations or improve productivity.

How to Overcome these Challenges?

NAM created a program in association with the Manufacturing Institute to begin tackling these issues, which they call the Manufacturing Skills Certification System.

This MSCS is a “system of stackable credentials, according to the overview available on the website, with partners including the American Welding Society and the National Institute of Metalworking Skills. The system ensures that workers have the proper skills in four categories:

  • Personal Effectiveness Skills will they show up on time?
  • Basic Academic Requirements communicating effectively and interpreting key instructions
  • General Workplace/Core Manufacturing Competencies understanding the basics of safety, quality assurance and continuous improvement, or lean
  • Key technical skills for the production line, welding, machining and metalforming or CNC

According to the Manufacturing Institute, this system has been deployed in community colleges across the country, with four pilot projects set in Ohio, North Carolina, Texas and Washington to set deployment precedents for all 50 states. As of September 2010, 25 states have undertaken “strategic planning to deploy the system.

Strategic planning does not necessarily translate into immediate manufacturing employment, which puts the effectiveness of the program into question. Indeed, the authors of the survey noted, “many manufacturers are skeptical about the ability of training to close the skills gap.

Now, if we could only promote an outreach program for the majority of college-ready teenagers that not only reveals the potential number of jobs in manufacturing, but also higher-than-expected median starting salaries, to change the social mindset of manufacturing careers that would be something.

We already know of MSCI’s interesting initiatives to inform young people about manufacturing any other initiatives out there are succeeding? Drop us a comment!

–Taras Berezowsky

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