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Last Updated Wednesday, October 7 2015

SME Says Training Programs Are Good Models for President’s Job Training Reform

Published January 31, 2014
Today, the skilled labor gap got a little smaller as President Barack Obama signed an executive order initiating an across-the-board review of America's training programs.

SME, an organization dedicated to advancing manufacturing and attracting future generations, said this is positive momentum, which can build on successful training programs that bring together manufacturers, schools and communities.

“Today, visiting a GE facility in Waukesha, Wisconsin, President Obama talked about his job training initiative to identify successful local programs and duplicate and expand them,” said Jeannine Kunz, managing director of workforce and education for SME.  “We are happy to introduce the President and Vice President – who will be overseeing this effort – to existing programs throughout the U.S. that can serve as models for the rest of the country to build a strong workforce."

One of the biggest challenges for manufacturers is addressing the skilled labor gap. In fact, SME research confirms that nine out of ten manufacturers are struggling to find the skilled workers they need which is impacting production, quality, innovation and the ability to meet customer needs.

To turn around manufacturing in America, there is a dichotomy that must be addressed:  there are good jobs available but there aren’t enough trained workers to fill them.  This is critical because keeping the manufacturing engine going and growing is an important driver for the U.S. economy.

The good news is that SME has been working to address the skills gap through a multi-pronged approach that:

Focuses on stimulating interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) at the K–12 level.
Encourages young adults and displaced workers to pursue a career in manufacturing.
Provides ongoing advanced training for the current workforce that fits the needs of manufacturers, academically and logistically.
These programs and strategies are seeing strong results that can be replicated in other cities and states across the country without remaking the wheel, according to Kunz.

For instance, manufacturers such as SGS Tool Company in Munroe Falls, Ohio, are working with area schools, from junior high through college level, to establish a pipeline of future associates.  Additionally, the company’s internal training program is paying off with retention and engagement well above industry average, all helping stem their skilled labor shortage.

High schools, community colleges and vocational schools are also playing a pivotal role in workforce development.  For instance, Ivy Tech Community College in South Bend, Ind. is establishing a steady pipeline of qualified machinists ready to hit the shop floor.  Using Tooling U-SME’s online classes, the program has issued nearly 300 NIMS certifications in just two years, and regularly places students in jobs in the local area.

Hawthorne High School in Southern California has been recognized by SME Education Foundation as a PRIME (Partners Response in Manufacturing Education) school.  As part of the program, Hawthorne receives grants and scholarships for future education, and has been connected by SME with local manufacturers including Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Raytheon, Honeywell and SpaceX.

Training for manufacturers is critical, too.  Next week, SME will announce a new industry standard: Tooling U-SME’s Competency Framework for achieving manufacturing excellence. SME brought together a team of manufacturing experts coupled with academia, to create this tool, focused on job roles, that allows companies to combat the increasing talent shortage and achieve stronger performance from their workforce while providing clear development pathways and career growth opportunities for their employees.

“This new initiative brings great optimism for America’s manufacturing industry and, by modeling programs on existing initiatives and tapping into SME’s experience, there is great opportunity to create a strong pipeline of future workers,” said Kunz.  “At SME, we applaud an increased focus on job training for manufacturers, and stand ready to help.”

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