Today's Students—Tomorrow's High Quality Workforce

Allow me to share portions of my vision of the future of our country and our industry. This vision includes the critical role that today's students and their dedicated instructors play in making all our businesses profitable and productive in the future.

Columns From: 11/1/2002 Modern Machine Shop,

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Allow me to share portions of my vision of the future of our country and our industry. This vision includes the critical role that today's students and their dedicated instructors play in making all our businesses profitable and productive in the future. America's future—your company's future and your children and grandchildren's futures—will be shaped by the drive and dedication of today's teachers. They, along with organizations such as SkillsUSA-VICA (www.skillsusa.org) and NIMS (www.nims-skills.org), will shape the skills, knowledge and values of future workers. Your company's ability to produce in tomorrow's competitive world environment boils down to the skill, education and drive of your workers. Therefore, we all must share a vision to develop a highly skilled world-class workforce.

We are seeing a dramatic shift in workforce demographics. The secure unskilled industrial jobs of the past barely exist anymore. Today almost 80 percent of jobs require what I like to call a "tailored technical education." Each year we see our national need for a highly skilled workforce increasing.

Setting high standards must also be part of our vision. At our trade association we seek to set the highest standard. Our employees seek top quality, and the industry I represent demands no less. I am asking all of you to make a commitment to these ideals and to reflect them in your future actions.

Since our industry must rely on educators to instill the skills, knowledge and values we want in our future workforce, we must be willing to train and guide these educators. To meet the needs of the manufacturing technology industry, my association and its members, along with numerous other manufacturing associations and companies, have supported a national effort to develop metalworking skill standards. These skill standards can help every metalworking company across the country communicate the specific skills it wants developed in its future workforce. These same standards can be used as benchmarks for upgrading the skills of your existing workforce. Part of my vision is to have all metalworking employers use the phrase "NIMS Credentials Preferred" at their employment window and in help wanted advertising. This will send a message to your community that you seek highly skilled workers and will put pressure on local educators to get their programs certified by NIMS and to produce graduates that meet the NIMS Standards. You may also want to use the NIMS Standards to design and improve company training programs.

The SkillsUSA-VICA student organization has played a major role in helping our industry achieve its workforce goals. SkillsUSA-VICA links us to thousands of secondary and post-secondary programs and educators. The SkillsUSA Championships annually provide a forum for our industry (and others) to showcase current technology and the skill and knowledge requirements for students to be successful workers.

Obtaining our vision is not a one-shot exercise. If you belong to a trade association, please find out if it is actively supporting NIMS and SkillsUSA. If not, put pressure on it to look out for your future interests. Next, go to your local secondary and post-secondary school systems and see if they are NIMS certified and have a SkillsUSA student organization in place. If not, do your part to get local industry support to have these two things implemented. If they exist, get involved with industry advisory committees to help guide the efforts.

For our industry to survive, we all must strive to make a difference. Do your part locally to make "Today's Students Tomorrow's High Quality Workforce."

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