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Fabtech: What to Do about Lack of Skilled Workers?

While the exhibitors at Fabtech rolled out new products, a major theme of the show centered on who was going to use the technology.

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Right before Thanksgiving, I got a chance to walk the halls of McCormick Place in Chicago for the 2011 Fabtech show, which is North America’s largest metal forming, fabricating, and welding exposition and conference. The show was well attended, as is evident from this snapshot I took during registration on opening day.
 
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After walking for what seemed like miles up and down rows, browsing new products and talking to people who were enthusiastic about showing me how these products worked, I started to notice a trend: Most of what I was seeing was a direct answer to the question, “What do we do about the lack of skilled workers?” The machine tool builders seemed to come up with two answers: make more productive machines, and make them simpler to use. Watch this slideshow to see a small sampling of the products at Fabtech designed to increase productivity and ease operator training.
 
Aside from new technology, the industry is considering a variety of other ways to find, train and retain skilled employees. I sat in on an interesting conference session called “Manufacturing Outlook 2011—Challenges and Opportunities.” One of the panelists, David Lazzeri, president & CEO of DuPont Powder Coatings America, said that loyalty needs to be more stable in the workplace, both from employees and employers. Other ideas the panel mentioned included more involvement from companies and unions in apprentice programs, equal assistance for those learning a trade as to those going to a four-year school, tax reform and increased parental influence.
 

So what is the answer to the lack of skilled workers? Maybe it isn’t just one thing. Maybe we are solving this problem by employing all the solutions above.