A recent study conducted by the Grant Thornton consulting firm for the National Association of Manufacturers found that 88 percent of the responding manufacturers reported difficulties in finding qualified job candidates. And 60 percent typically reject between 50 and 100 percent of applicants as unqualified.
Needless to say, these are troubling statistics. They could be a major warning sign that your company is at risk of not being able to retain or attract new well-trained, highly qualified workers to meet your future production requirements.
If you're a regular reader of this publication, then you've seen many articles about how the latest products and processes help shops and plants stay competitive. A recurring theme in these articles is the importance of the people who make these products and processes work on a daily basis. The message is clear that skilled and knowledgeable people are essential to your operation, just as the right products and processes are. This new column, Preparing The Workforce Of Tomorrow, will be devoted to the people side of the metalworking business and what's being done to address the shortage of skilled, well-trained workers.
For example, a consortium of metalworking associations, related organizations and individual companies has been formed to help employers address the problem. The goal is to portray the dignity, challenge and benefits associated with manufacturing technology careers. The main focus of this group is to use the technology displayed at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) at McCormick Place in Chicago every two years to turn young minds on to the various manufacturing career possibilities.
We also hope to change some misconceptions that many educators, school administrators and parents have about manufacturing. The group sponsors what is called the "Student Summit" during the entire eight days of this major trade show. Educators and students from all over the country are given free admission to this Student Summit. Industry "mentors" are recruited to work with specific schools before, during and after the Student Summit. The Student Summit Steering Committee maintains a database of all the instructors that bring student groups or attend by themselves so that they can be kept current on manufacturing career information during the two year period between IMTS-Student Summits.
More volunteers to be Student Summit Mentors at IMTS are needed. The responsibilities are flexible, so volunteers can adjust their involvement to fit their schedules and the needs of the chosen school. If you would like to be considered for the program, you should visit the Student Summit Web site listed at the end of this column.
Mentors receive a kit with a suggested script, visual aids, instructor materials and instructions on how to register a class for the Student Summit. The mentor then schedules a classroom presentation with the appropriate instructor at the school. The kit also suggests some activities for the mentor to pursue with students at IMTS as well as follow-up activities to conduct at the school after the show.
For those interested in conducting a similar Student Summit effort at a local trade show, an IMTS Student Summit Model is also available. If you think your local high school, technical college or university should be attending the IMTS 2000 Student Summit, have them visit the Web site and register electronically.
Members of the Student Summit Steering Committee are involved in many other activities designed to reduce the risk that our industry will not attract enough new talent and ability. For the next eleven months, members will take turns using this column to explain a different aspect of their effort to recruit and train the skilled workers our industry needs. But it all starts by portraying a positive image of the manufacturing technology industry and the benefits of becoming a part of it.
Tip of the Month: A very simple step you as an industry person can take to establish a partnership with a school in your area is to forward, after you've finished with it, your copy of Modern Machine Shop to a manufacturing technology instructor. You might want to bookmark this column each month so the instructor sees that industry is very concerned and committed to working with education to help prepare the workforce of tomorrow.