Developing a skilled workforce program

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

According to the Reshoring Initiative, a skilled workforce is the key to reshoring and manufacturing growth. The key to skilled workforce development is motivating a higher quantity and quality of recruits.  We recommend these high impact, minimal cost skilled workforce development programs and are seeking communities interested in implementing these programs.

  1. Perception that training is not as important as degrees. Here’s evidence that you can make a difference. Harry Moser, Initiative president, was invited to the Department of Labor in 2012 to make recommendations on how to prepare the skilled manufacturing workforce to support reshoring.  He started by telling the Department of Labor that it was part of the problem because its website was biased toward education at the expense of training.  He showed a Bureau of Labor Statistics website that shows the relationship between income and degree level with a title of “Education Pays.”  He recommended that the title be changed to “Education and Training Pay” and that the income of workers who have passed an apprenticeship or have a strong portfolio of NIMS, MSSC or AWS certificates be shown along with the degree holders.  The Department of Labor immediately accepted the need to revise the site.  It eliminated the “selling” of education from the heading and added text about apprenticeships and other on-the-job training. It also began to survey to collect the data on apprenticeship graduates.  By making data available to guidance counselors and school administrators that there are other ways to win, we will attract higher caliber recruits. 
  2. Perception of ongoing manufacturing decline. Belief that there is no future in manufacturing and that all the work will go offshore is a major image issue to overcome. It is essential to promote the success of reshoring to improve the attractiveness of manufacturing careers.  By publicly addressing instances of reshoring in association and public media, it will motivate students to select, guidance counselors to recommend and schools to provide skills training.
  3. Perception of low prestige and income. There is a belief that vocations/trades training is lower status than a four-year university degree. It is critical to eliminate the use of the terms “vocation” and “trades.” These skilled occupations should be referred to as professions and the workers as professionals as is done in Germany and Switzerland. This effort should be provided with cooperation of K-12 educational system, community colleges, media and employers. The enduring benefit of this is it increases attractiveness of skills training and careers.
  4. Perception as lower skilled than any job requiring a university degree.  These jobs are often referred to as the “middle skills” jobs.  We suggest finding a more positive term.  It's clear to us that a toolmaker who passed an apprenticeship and is good at his/her profession is at least as high skilled as an English graduate who is pushing papers in an insurance office.  We suggest using technical skills, STEM skills or career skills instead of “middle skills.”

Moser is founder and president of Reshoring Initiative.