Posts Tagged ‘skills gap’

Why Universities are Important to Rebuilding U.S. Manufacturing

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

The fact that more and more manufacturers are returning manufacturing to the U. S. or keeping manufacturing here instead of moving to Mexico or Asia is good news, but on February 23, 2017, President Trump met with two dozen manufacturing CEOs at the White House.

While they “declared their collective commitment to restoring factory jobs lost to foreign competition,” some of the CEOs “suggested that there were still plenty of openings for U.S. factory jobs but too few qualified people to fill them. They urged the White House to support vocational training for the high-tech skills that today’s manufacturers increasingly require…The jobs are there, but the skills are not,” one executive said during meetings with White House officials that preceded a session with the president.”

“We were challenged by the president to … come up with a program to make sure the American worker is trained for the manufacturing jobs of tomorrow,” Reed Cordish, a White House official, said after Thursday’s meetings.”

Training today’s workers in the skills they will need for the jobs of the future in manufacturing is important, but we also need to educate the next generation of manufacturing workers. We need more engineers to rebuild American manufacturing, and universities play a key role in providing this education.

Last week, I had the opportunity to interview Dr. David B. Williams, Executive Dean of the Professional Colleges and Dean of The College of Engineering at The Ohio State University, located in Columbus, Ohio, to discuss the role universities are playing in rebuilding manufacturing and educating the next generation of manufacturing workers.

His official biography on the University website states, “Williams is involved in many university-industry economic development partnerships. He serves on the boards of ASM International, the State of Ohio’s Third Frontier Advisory Board, Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (formerly American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute), Columbus 2020, Metro Early College STEM School, EWI, Ohio Aerospace & Aviation Council, and the Transportation Research Center.”

Dean Williams said, “Ohio State University is a manufacturing R&D and training Powerhouse. Manufacturing is a critical part of the state of Ohio’s economy and accounts for 17 percent of the state’s GPD. It is also the state’s largest industry sector. We have partnered with over two hundred manufacturers in developing and funding research that can be used in their industries. It is a very important part of the college. We use the talent of our professors, graduate, and undergrad students and technology. OSU is committed to innovating applied research for product design, technology commercialization, and manufacturing for industry through its programs.”

Dean Williams mentioned that on October 1, 2016 the Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME) was designated as a new Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) affiliate organization, and that Ohio State’s MEP program will work directly with manufacturers to identify and execute growth strategies. Afterward, I was provided with information that states: “The Ohio State University’s Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME) will receive up to $8.6 million in federal, state and industry funding over the next five years to lead a program facilitating growth of small- and mid-sized manufacturing companies in the 15 county central Ohio region. The program is funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technologies, with matching funds provided by the Ohio Development Services Agency, which administers operations through seven regional affiliates.”

I found the information about Central Ohio’s manufacturing interesting very interesting: “The central Ohio manufacturing economy is comprised of approximately 3,350 self-identified manufacturing companies across the 15 Central Ohio counties. More than 90 percent of them have 50 or fewer employees. Many small and medium-sized manufacturing companies are aware of the growth challenges they face, but still require assistance to overcome them.” The size of companies is similar to San Diego County, in which 97% have fewer than 50 employees.

Dean Williams told me that the Center’s Executive Director, John Bair, is a successful entrepreneur, not an academic, and added that they had invited him to head up the Center after he had sold his company and semi-retired.”

He added, “We invite manufacturers to bring their problems to us, and then we put together teams of experts to work with them to solve these problems. The company gets to keep any of the Intellectual Property developed in the process of working together.

Dean Williams also said that Ohio State is home to the Ohio Manufacturing Institute, which “serves as a public policy mechanism for manufacturing within the state and nationally that facilitates the use of available technical resources for economic development.” He said, “OMI acts like a clearinghouse for Ohio to provide manufacturers with the tools they need to collaborate with a statewide network of technical resources. Its state and national policy recommendations reflect a thoughtful response to industry problems and issues OMI also engages in outreach programs that support manufacturers—from small to medium-size firms to original equipment manufacturers—by aligning with industries, academic institutions, technology support organizations and government.”

As an example, Dean Williams said, “We have had a long relationship with Honda since they moved to Marysville in 1978, which is about 45 miles northwest of here. About five years ago, we started partnering with Honda to help them develop solutions to some of their manufacturing problems. Their high-end NSX brand is currently made with advanced engineered materials and is produced at only a rate of 7-8 vehicles per day. They want to produce the Accord using the same materials and technology. At the Center, we have put together teams of experts to solve this problem.”

Dean Williams said, “Hundreds of students study abroad for part of the education. Their experience abroad strengthens their performance and helps train the people necessary to maintain and repair the machines. They are still lots of manufacturers in Ohio. We graduate about 2,000 engineers per year and about half of them stay in Ohio. There are 14 engineering colleges in Ohio, and we have the educational base to drive the 21st Century manufacturing.” Since the U.S. is only graduating about 50,000 engineers a year compared to the estimated 500,000 per year in China, Ohio State University is doing more than their fair share.

With regard to the next generation of manufacturing workers, he said, “A big part of the problem is that parents think manufacturing is like what it was in the past, so they don’t want their children to get involved in manufacturing. I was at SpaceX recently and met the chief welding engineer, and she was a graduate of Ohio State with a degree in welding. Young men and women can even get a Masters Degree in ‘joining’ through Ohio State’s online welding engineering master’s program: https://online.osu.edu/program/mswe. This discipline includes a deep understanding of the properties and testing of materials that can be welded.”

He said, “We are part of seven of the National Networks of Manufacturing Innovation (NNMIs). One of them is LIFT, which I looked up and found that it is “an industry-led, government funded consortium. By reimagining processes and procedures, the highly linked and leveraged network is facilitating technology transfer into supply chain companies and empowering the lightweight metals workforce.” Ohio State University, the University of Michigan in Detroit and EWI are the founding members of this NNMI consortium that was established February 25, 2014 following a competitive process led by the U.S. Department of Defense under the Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing Innovation (LM3I).

Dean Williams stated, “We also partner with the community colleges under an economic grant program to develop the existing workforce through continuing education. Overall, through a variety of programs and camps, we interact with 70-80 high schools on a semi-regular basis. One program is Hometown Ambassadors, where students talk to younger students at their High School alma maters to help them understand the opportunities in manufacturing today.”

Since Dean Williams is on the board of ASM International, it was fitting that Ohio State University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering hosted the ASM Education Foundation’s Materials Camps for two years (2013 and 2015). These one-week training camps provide the opportunity for high-school teachers to work hands-on with metals, ceramics, polymers and composites and learn how to incorporate these activities and demos into their science classes.

The Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT) was a partner with ASM International and the ASM Educational Foundation for the 2015 camp. “Curriculum content on the use of lightweight metals and new technologies [were] integrated into the programs at 45 camps around the nation…designed to enrich, stimulate and enhance the technical competence and teaching skills of middle and high school STEM teachers.”

Summer camps for teachers and students are important to attracting the next generation of manufacturing workers. More universities need to get involved with the summer camps and other programs of ASM International, the National Association of Manufacturers’ Manufacturing Institute “Dream it. Do it” program, and Project Lead the Way.

ToolingU-SME Report Reveals Manufacturers Are Not Addressing Skills Gap

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

In 2011, I attended the imX Expo (interactive manufacturing eXperience) in Las Vegas when Tooling U-SME ” announced their Mission Critical: Workforce 2021 initiative and “sounded the alarm that the future success of manufacturing is at risk by the end of the decade if industry does not address the growing skills gap.” The event was sponsored by SME (formerly the Society of Manufacturing Engineers) and the American Machine Tool Distributors’ Association (AMTDA).

At that event, Tooling U-SME, “the world’s leading provider of training and workforce development solutions for manufacturing companies and educational institutions,” introduced a free one-of-a-kind “Workforce 2021 Assessment” tool for companies to use to assess and gauge their company’s performance because they had identified that there would be a critical shortage of skilled workers by 2021 that would threaten the future of manufacturing in America. “By answering a short series of questions about a company’s knowledge retention, readiness of future skill requirements, and the status of employee development programs, a company is able to assess their ability to meet current and future workforce challenges.”

In a September 5, 2016 commentary in The Hill contributor Grant Phillips wrote that the National Association of Manufacturers found there are “600,000 unfilled jobs in manufacturing primarily due to a lack of skilled labor. It is this skills mismatch that plagues the US labor market…”

On September 8, 2016, ToolingU-SME, released a report that showed the progress towards achieving the goal of the Mission Critical: Workforce 2021. Based on five years of insights from the Workforce 2021 Assessment tool, the report states, “the results are not encouraging. Responses show there has been little advancement. While it’s not too late, companies must take action now to ensure a healthier next decade.” The report quotes from report, “The Skills Gap in US Manufacturing: 2015 and Beyond” by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, which states, “Over the next decade, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will likely need to be filled. The skills gap is expected to result in 2 million of those jobs remaining unfilled.”

ToolingU-SME Vice President Jeannine Kunz wrote in the cover letter, “only a very small number of worldclass organizations are prepared for the extreme talent gap predicted by the year 2021. Some of these companies started planning years ago to address the coming labor shortage. Others were forced to take reactionary steps when faced with a shrinking employee pool. Regardless, they started formal training programs, introduced apprenticeships, built relationships with educators and more…At Tooling U-SME, we are concerned that more manufacturers aren’t taking action since this has a big impact on the long-term health and competitiveness of the industry as a whole. There is a false sense of security among many manufacturers who are not recognizing these future challenges or investing in the development of their workforce today.”

The companies that responded to the survey fall into five categories:  procrastinator, strategist, role model, and visionary.

The procrastinators nearly make up the majority of the respondents because 49% said that “their company has not begun assessing their manufacturing employee’s current skills against skills they will require in the future.” In fact, only “1 out of 20 (5%) acknowledge conducting a complete assessment of all staff.” Since “nearly 9 out of 10 respondents (88%) said their company is having problems finding skilled works in manufacturing,” you would think there would be more urgency to address this problem. This problem will only get worse because “14% of respondents say they will lose a full quarter (25%) or more of their workforce to retirements in the next five years.”

The highlights of the report are:

  • “Key findings from responses to the survey from manufacturers of all sizes
  • Insights on business pains, such as hiring needs, training resources, mentoring and talent development
  • Best practices to immediately start ensuring your workforce is ready for the next decade”

The key findings are:

  • “Less than one-third (29%) of respondents would characterize their company’s talent development as good or excellent”
  • “30% say their company has no community involvement (internships, co-op, etc) to help develop the proper skills of their incoming workers.”
  • “54% don’t budget for employee development”
  • “33% say their job-related training options are minimal”
  • “88% say their company is below average when it comes to offering outside resources to upgrade the skill sets of employees”

While 74% agree that training needs in the organization impact a wide range of levels throughout the company…3 out of 4 (75%) say their company does not offer a structured training program on manufacturing skills. In addition, “less than half (45%) say their company has personnel designated to manage training and employee development.”

The report identifies issues related to the skills gap that need to be addressed immediately:

  1. Incoming employees — finding them
  2. Incoming employees — training them
  3. Incumbent workers — upgrading their skills to keep up with changing technology

With regard to finding manufacturing employees, I commented that we need a national manufacturing database of skilled workers when I gave my presentation on how to solve the skills shortage to the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce. Many workers that have been laid off due to transferring manufacturing offshore or plant closures have no idea where to go to find a new job in manufacturing. They take lower-paying jobs outside of manufacturing because they can’t uproot their family on the chance they could find a job at a manufacturer in another city.

The ToolingU-SME report urges manufacturing to establish training programs for both incoming workers and incumbent workers to upgrade their skills. The report identifies the following six steps for companies to take to get started immediately:

  1. “Build a business case for learning with senior management. Involve the right stakeholders in discussions and tie learning to performance so you can measure the results later. It is important to set expectations, get buy in and gather support for the program early on.
  2. Define and update your job roles with the required knowledge, skills and abilities needed to build strong performance on the job. This competency-based learning approach will lead to the positive return on investment (ROI) your stakeholders expect.
  3. Build career progressive models, showing growth from entry level to more senior levels. This modeling effort will improve employee engagement and retention, and allow the alignment of skills to pay.
  4. Benchmark incumbent employee competencies through knowledge and skills-based assessments to determine gaps in performance and build a training strategy to address them.
  5. Design a custom competency-based training curriculum using blended learning that consists of online and on-the-job training as well as other performance support.
  6. Ensure performance standards are measurable and trackable. These standards will validate you ROI investment.”

What struck me is that all of these steps are integral to a company becoming a Lean Company. They are nearly identical to the requirements of “Talent Development” that are incorporated into the journey of transforming a company into a Lean company. It would appear that from this survey that the majority of manufacturers have not begun their journey to becoming even a Lean manufacturer, much less a Lean Company.

My recommendation is to start by using the free Assessment tool of ToolingU-SME. Then you can decide what steps to take next. If your workers need specific manufacturing skills certification, then check out the classes offered by ToolingU-SME, either online or on-site.

Another source for training is the Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program (MEP), which is “a national network with hundreds of specialists who understand the needs of America’s small manufacturers. The nationwide network consists of manufacturing extension partnership centers located in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. MEP provides companies with services and access to public and private resources to enhance growth, improve productivity, reduce costs, and expand capacity.” Locate your nearest MEP here. The MEPs have a variety of training programs that are available at reduced cost to manufacturers. The California Manufacturing Technology Consulting (CMTC) is the designated MEP for California, and they offer training in Lean manufacturing and many other subjects that would incorporate the above steps.

In California, companies can apply directly for a training grant from the Employment Training Panel (ETP) to help defray the cos of training or they can join an active ETP Multiple Employer Contract (MEC).

Many community college systems around the country offer training in specific manufacturing skills. California also has nine Centers for Applied Competitive Technology funded by the Chancellor’s Office of the Community College system, which provides training in specific manufacturing skills as well as Lean Manufacturing.

A number of community colleges actually use the ToolingU-SME courses instead of developing their own curriculum. I have discussed some of the training offered at community colleges in California and other states in previous articles I have written. You can peruse these articles under the Training and Workforce Development categories on my website:  www.savingusmanufacturing.com.

As more manufacturing is reshored to America, it will be even more critical to have the skilled workers we need to make American manufacturing great again. Do not procrastinate any longer on addressing this important problem.