Building Skills For America

Unemployment is low. The demand for skilled workers is high, and a skilled workforce is essential for America’s future.

Columns From: 5/12/2000 Modern Machine Shop,

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Unemployment is low. The demand for skilled workers is high, and a skilled workforce is essential for America’s future. To prepare that workforce, we must ask all Americans to support career and technical education at the high school and college levels, including metal trades programs.

There is tremendous growth in most of the occupational trades, and the marketplace for skilled labor has never been better. Yet a 1997 report by the National Center for Educational Statistics finds the number of students taking machining classes has been on the decline, with an estimated 39 percent drop in enrollment. We all need to do a better job of making young students, their parents and teachers aware of the opportunities for professional and financial reward that exist today through technical training in manufacturing careers such as CNC machining, metal fabricating and welding.

If we are to have a globally competitive workforce in the coming years, our teachers must learn from industry what skills will be required, and our students must be aware of these training programs and have the opportunity to enroll.

This is a very real problem, and people are clamoring for solutions. SkillsUSA, the national association of students and teachers in the trade, technical and skilled service occupations, is working to be part of the solution by sending its members out to talk with people in labor, businesspeople, school boards, town halls, state houses and even the White House.

SkillsUSA is working to collect one million signatures from business and industry in support of technical education and a skilled workforce through a national campaign called Building Skills for America.

SkillsUSA–VICA has launched this image campaign to help focus attention on the importance of the nation’s skilled workers. Companies nationwide are endorsing this grassroots effort that will highlight business support of skilled workforce development and the ramifications of the current skills shortage.

SkillsUSA-–VICA began gathering signatures during its National Leadership and Skills Conference last summer. Local chapters, state associations and business and labor partners are working to gather one million signatures testifying to the importance of America’s skilled workforce. In September 2000, during the organization’s annual Washington Leadership Training Institute, these signatures will be presented to Congress and the White House. This campaign will generate publicity, parental awareness and policy maker endorsement.

Students in SkillsUSA chapters have been trained to deliver presentations on Building Skills for America to business and civic groups. SkillsUSA is also collecting proclamations of support from local and state policy-making groups. SkillsUSA’s business, industry and labor partners are encouraged to collect signatures from their employees or memberships.

The Building Skills for America campaign will help:

  • Arouse public awareness of the critical shortage of skilled workers and the consequent threat to our economic health and industrial base.
  • Educate students, parents and educators about the unprecedented opportunities for professional reward and challenge offered by the skilled trades today.
  • Modernize perceptions of the work environment and of the educational rigor required of skilled workers by industry today.
  • Explain how technologically advanced industry has become and the degree to which the attainment of math, science and computer skills—and employability skills—by the work force have become indispensable to U.S. global competitiveness.
  • Enhance respect and public support for vocational-technical education and its students.

SkillsUSA brings together educators, administrators, corporate America, labor organizations, trade associations and government in a coordinated effort to address America’s need for a globally competitive, educated and skilled work force. The highlight of the SkillsUSA calendar is the annual SkillsUSA Championships, which gather 4,000 state winners seeking national titles in more than 70 trade, technical and leadership skills contests on a half million square feet of exhibit hall floor space in Kansas City during the last week in June.

Competitions include Welding, Sheet Metal, Robotics and Automation Technology, Automated Manufacturing Technology, Industrial Motor Control and Industrial Maintenance Technology.

For more information about SkillsUSA, visit www.skillsusa.org or call SkillsUSA’s Business & Industry Partnerships Department at (703) 737-0624. E-mail can be sent to anyinfo@skillsusa.org.

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