At this time of year in the northern hemisphere, many schools are in session once again after summer recess. Students are just getting back into the swing of things with classes, labs, and homework as they further their preparations to one day enter the working world.
When they do enter the workforce, some young people put formal education behind them. Others engage on a journey of lifelong learning, including university continuing education, seminars and workshops, professional certifications, and other opportunities. In either case, most people receive the basic skills and qualifications for employment at an early age. But what happens when those skills and experience are no longer in demand?
People with foresight and ambition will anticipate the changes in demand and prepare to enter different careers. Others will reinvent themselves only when forced to do so. This dynamic both benefits and harms today’s manufacturing businesses. Factors such as downsizing, relocation driven by outsourcing trends, and economic challenges lead many experienced manufacturing workers to change careers. Likewise, up-and-coming young workers are avoiding everything related to manufacturing after hearing about all the layoffs and facility closures during the last decade. Now that manufacturing is reentering a growth phase, it is difficult to find capable machinists, welders, automated tool programmers, and other people needed to fill the new vacancies.
Fortunately, every cloud has a silver lining—and this is true even of today’s shifting career patterns. People generally are more open to midlife career changes than in the past, and there are more resources available for adult training and career counseling than ever before, including a wide range of federal and state government funding sources to help people make a transition. Manufacturing companies can expect to find refugees from other fields—mature, responsible individuals retrained to succeed in the manufacturing workforce. These people will use their diverse experiences to help revitalize operations.
Any manufacturing company willing to provide or at least subsidize training should be able to find willing and capable individuals ready for a new challenge. Many organizations also have seen success with apprenticeship and intern programs. These efforts increase awareness of available job opportunities while providing employers with an in-depth look at prospective employees in a work setting.
The importance of continuing education
The flip side of the situation is the recognition that today’s manufacturing environment requires a different set of skills than a decade ago. Workers must continually engage in training to understand and successfully apply the new technologies and equipment entering the manufacturing space. Fortunately, resources are available from a number of sources, including APICS and other professional organizations.
The realities of today’s marketplace mean that there often is a mismatch between available skills and company needs. The most effective leaders in this environment are forward thinking and take active roles in skills inventory management. They accomplish this through active and visible support of educational institutions—particularly area community colleges, trade schools, and internship and apprenticeship programs—and maintaining a dedicated commitment to ongoing employee training and education.
Reprinted from APICS Magazine: Enterprise Insights. September/October 2012