Manufacturing has evolved well beyond the days of an apprentice learning a manual trade from a master or a low-skilled assembly line worker performing repetitive tasks. Today, manufacturing is a highly technical occupation and requires proficiency in a wide variety of math, computer, and business skills. As manufacturing continues to expand, many companies are finding it difficult to fill jobs because of the mismatch between the skills of available workers and the abilities manufacturers require. This so-called “skills gap” is also being exacerbated by the challenge of attracting a younger audience to a manufacturing career as the seasoned workers of the “baby-boomer” generation begin to retire.
To address the skills gap, manufacturers are teaming with educators and trade groups to dispel the myth that manufacturing is a low-skilled, low-tech job; rather, it is a profession that requires computer, engineering, and mathematical aptitude. Many community colleges across the country have put programs in place that focus on relevant training for manufacturing jobs, such as CAD/CAM programming, materials sciences, and production and inventory management. Several organizations have also recognized the need to introduce engineering and manufacturing careers to middle school age youth by encouraging them to watch a television program like “How it’s Made,” or making a visit to a nearby plant.
Here at Astro Machine, we are heavily involved at the local level at supporting the promotion of manufacturing as a career. We sit on the advisory board for a local technical college and recruit new staff from each machine tool technology graduating class. This particular institution boasts a 100% hire rate for each class of students completing the program. In a still recovering economy, that is quite an accomplishment, and it enforces the notion that people with manufacturing skills are very much in demand.
The bottom line is that we need to change America’s mindset — manufacturing workers are not the “blue collar” trades people of the past, but rather professionals with contemporary skills and an abundance of career opportunities that promise a bright and successful future.