In an era in which education and training has never been more important for the economic prosperity of individuals and the country, the U.S. has fallen behind many other nations in educational attainment and achievement.
Eighty percent of industry executives reported they are willing to pay more than the market rates in workforce areas reeling under a talent crisis. Still six out of 10 positions remain unfilled due to the skills shortage. In 2014, the average manufacturing worker in the United States earned $79,553 annually, including benefits.
The 2016 October labor reports teen unemployment rate stands at 15.6 percent while the labor force participation rate is 62.8 percent, and 94.6 million of working age individuals are not working or even looking for a job.
So what’s wrong with this picture?
The 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) shows an estimated only 37 percent of 12th-graders are prepared for college-level coursework with only 25 percent of grade 12 students in math and 37 percent in reading scoring at or above Proficient level.
To make matters worse, the nation is currently experiencing a 372,000 job shortfall in the number of teachers and public education jobs. The lack of teachers and a skilled workforce have made it difficult for businesses to grow and expand at home.
There is a high demand for teachers with certain academic areas in greater need than others. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education is a great example of an area where there is a high demand for great teachers.
Learning That Works
The good news is the National Career Clusters Framework provides a vital structure for organizing and delivering quality Career Technical Education (CTE) programs through learning and comprehensive programs of study to help students navigate their way to greater success in college and careers … “Learning that works for America.”
Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) who co-chair the U.S. Senate CTE Caucus are leading a bipartisan initiative for increasing the emphasis on the career readiness of students. Senator Kaine said, “CTE is an important pathway for students to prepare for the workforce by integrating practical applied purposes with work-based knowledge and a hands-on learning experience.”
The average high school graduation rate for students concentrating in CTE programs is 90 percent with 70 percent of CTE graduates enrolled in postsecondary classes. High-risk students are 8 to 10 times less likely to drop out if they enroll in CTE programs instead of general programs.
A proven model for Career Pathways is Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) in the partnership with Hampton Roads Public Schools (Virginia). This program reaches out to students who are mentored by over 300 NNS volunteers and gives them opportunities to experience future careers choices.
In addition, NNS holds its annual Manufacturing Day event. This event invites school administrators and teachers from area high schools to learn about manufacturing behind the shipyard gates and the career opportunities it can provide to help recruit the next generation of shipbuilders.
Closing the Skills Gap
Parents and their students do not view working in manufacturing as an acceptable career path. As more emerging good paying manufacturing jobs are becoming available, most parents still want their kids to get a college degree and get a white-collar job.
In many cases, earning power is more a function of the occupation than the degree level. Workers with just a two-year degree can out-earn graduates of four-year universities who go into less lucrative fields.
The Reshoring Initiative President, Harry Moser states “A strong skilled workforce is key to bringing jobs back home and manufacturing growth. Similarly making reshoring’s success visible is key to motivating recruitment of the next generation of skilled workers.”
The Learning First Alliance “Career Readiness Summit” met on the 20th of September in Washington DC along with its industry partners to offer their support to build a national bipartisan coalition to provide best practices and innovative strategies to close the nation’s shortage of great teachers and career-ready citizens.
Their goal is to invest public and private dollars wisely in deploying an educational and economic strategy to graduate on time skilled career-ready citizens. And by bringing young people, parents, educators, manufacturers and policy-makers together to focus on replenishing the nation’s talent pipeline with great teachers, every student will be prepared to learn and succeed in the 21st century.
Thus, making “Made in America” and the “American Dream” a reality by returning to our educational and manufacturing roots to enable the designing and making things at home, again!