By now, most schools are in full swing. In our industry, however, concerns about training and the skills shortage take no vacation. Yet there are encouraging signs that are broadly representative of the way things are going.
The Youth Summit at IMTS was certainly a positive effort and a model for how earnestly this problem has to be addressed. It's too early to tell how many of the students involved will seek careers in metalworking and manufacturing, but this event clearly created a new awareness that we have to get the message out to talented youngsters well before their careers plans are set.
IMTS was also a focal point for legislation that will promote industry's training initiatives. For example, EDM builder Charmilles Technologies and the National Tooling & Machining Association were campaigning for passage of the Skilled Workforce Enhancement Act (H.R. 3110). The Act would create strong incentives for companies with fewer than 500 employees to train on-site and fill job openings in skilled trades.
Another on-going program that is already fulfilling its promise to improve skills training is the National Metalworking Skills Standards. These standards help assure that training programs develop the skills actually needed on the job. A system of certification helps workers receive recognition as well as helps employers judge job applicants fairly.
Efforts to make training a life-long opportunity are critical, too. It is essential to help workers who are skilled in a metalworking trade to become better skilled in business affairs, either as supervisors, managers, or owners of their own shops. Even here some good things have been going on.
A recent example: last month the highly-regarded Dunwoody Institute in Minneapolis opened the Holden Entrepreneurial Learning Center, a new program specifically designed to meet this need. Seminars include financial management, customer relations, ethics, strategic planning and other skills that can make or break a start-up shop. It's said to be the first such program that offers certification. You can inagine what an advantage it would be for a new shop owner to have this evidence of business skills to present when soliciting financial backing.
All this is not to say that we've got the skills shortage licked. Far from it. The good news is, the wheels are turning in the right direction. Let's hope we can reach the speed that creates real momentum.