Post Image

It’s no secret that availability of qualified labor is a big problem for both the construction industry and for manufacturers. In the former’s case, NAHB reports that the cost and availability of labor has skyrocketed from being the most significant problem faced by 13 percent of builders in 2011 to 82 percent in 2017. On top of this, the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte consulting concluded that, due to baby-boomer retirements and manufacturing growth (partly to counter the offshoring of jobs), industry is projecting a whopping shortfall of two million workers with the critically needed technological or problem-solving skills.

What can the industry do?

First of all, we need to restart vocational training programs and change the perception of the trade. Millennials appear to have a misconception of what manufacturing jobs looks like. They need to be shown that today’s manufacturing is replete with exciting, cutting edge technologies such as 3D printing, CNC machines, robotics and software programming, to drive innovation. With four-year college tuition inflating rapidly, manufacturers have an opportunity to reach out to young people through these reborn programs. A multi-dimensional approach to recruiting, managing and developing talent is essential at the local level.

One example is the program unfolding in my home state of Ohio, which has created a new campaign to promote manufacturing careers. "Making Ohio: Ohio Manufacturing" is an information portal about manufacturing jobs and the needed training, aimed at building a lasting workforce recruitment and skill development system in the state. Many other states are following suit.

A major element of this effort is shaping up to be a renewal of apprenticeship programs that were prevalent mid-century, but which had since been scaled back or eliminated. As youths realize that college isn’t necessarily right for them – financially or otherwise – earning a certification or completing an apprenticeship in a particular skill becomes an appealing career path.

By whatever combination of means, manufacturers should build robust community outreach programs, design curriculums in collaborations with technical and community colleges and strengthen their resolve to implement apprenticeships – all with the goal of attracting and focusing the latent talent pool we are confident exists.