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In the News: Solving The Skilled Workforce Shortage Will Take A Hands-On Approach

May 31, 2024

Excerpt from story by Jim Vinoski from Forbes

Industry is caught in a squeeze play, with Baby Boomers retiring and the younger generations lacking the training, skills and experiences that used to be commonplace

Staffing challenges are a hot topic in every corner of the manufacturing world today. The trades are a particular area of concern, as companies struggle to find the skilled workers they need. The reality is that the old paradigm for the worker pipeline is broken, and it will fall to industry itself, and its nonprofit allies, to rebuild it.

Non-Profits Can Help

Manufacturing Extension Partnerships and economic development organizations already exist across the country, and they’re becoming increasingly involved in helping manufacturers develop the talent they need.

Pennsylvania’s LVEDC mentioned above provides a good example. “We build coalitions, then we work to build solutions,” said Gelinas. One facet of that is the LVEDC’s hot career guide. “It’s a document that outlines the most in-demand occupations according to number of job postings, and it also outlines educational requirements and approximate entry-level wages.” Efforts like this to highlight the alternatives for excellent careers that exist outside the much-touted four-year degree path will be critical in filling the existing talent gaps.

The LVEDC also works directly with area manufacturers to build necessary training programs. “We administer a new coalition of industrial users, initially spearheaded by B. Braun, but with the likes of Lutron… Orasure… and a number of manufacturers who have come together and said, ‘Hey, this workforce issue is strong enough that we want to meet with our competitors. We want to figure out how to go about this talent pipeline issue together.’ And so they’ve established their own organization called the Industrial Training and Education Consortium.” The group works together to help foster training programs they need in common and to conduct collective marketing efforts.

Another critical element in fixing the talent gap is reaching youth at younger ages to interest them in manufacturing and skilled trades careers. Toward that end, the LVEDC has partnered with the Da Vinci Science Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania. “We have to attract kids early and young, and have programs for all ages,” said Lin Erickson, CEO and executive director at the science center. Once the LVEDC had conducted a survey of needed skills, including basic employability and STEM knowledge, Da Vinci built a program from there.

“We just opened, a couple weeks ago, a major new science center in downtown Allentown,” Erickson said. “The topics were selected for a variety of reasons, but careers and industry in the region were an important part of that.”

In addition to education-focused science exhibits, the center also provides a focus on how those topics relate to jobs in the area. “There are career kiosks… in these you get your personality profile, so it’s kind of fun. That profile then connects you, in the manufacturing gallery, to manufacturing jobs that might be aligned with your profile. The companies developed all those with us.”

The center has programs for all ages to further educate kids about those careers, to build skills in those areas, and to get kids out into the workplaces. “We are in many ways a connector,” Erickson added. “We do a lot of work with schools to help kids be ready to meet state standards, and we do a lot of work with companies in designing our exhibit experiences.”

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