In last week’s blog, Leading Edge Industrial explored how events in US history, like the Cold War and educational reforms, steered students away from exploring mechanical pursuits, but what does that mean for the current state of US manufacturing?
Below is an explanation of the skill gap crisis and what can be done to help remedy the situation.
The Skill Gap Crisis
It is frequently discussed in industrial, technical, and mechanical inner circles, yet a large majority of the US population is unaware that a skill gap exists in the manufacturing field. A skill gap simply means that thousands of positions in the manufacturing field are open, yet a lack of skills and education leaves them unfilled—resulting in a loss of innovation and an economic deficit ranging in the trillions.
So just how extensive is the problem?
According to a report conducted by Deloitte, between the years 2018 and 2028, 2.4 million manufacturing positions will go unfilled, and a potential economic impact of 2.5 trillion dollars will go untapped. This skill gap will result in lost productivity, innovation, and a lack of skills with new, advanced technology.
How Do We End the Skill Gap?
The big question that many machinists are asking themselves is: will this trend continue, or can steps be taken to prevent a further widening of the skill gap? We at Leading Edge Industrial believe that with increased industry involvement, and more encouragement and participation from schools, the skill gap can be lessened.
But what exactly should schools and the mechanical industry be doing?
Listed below are simple ways to spur more interest in the mechanical field, which can later promote promising careers in manufacturing and industrial design.
Apprenticeships are highly valuable because they provide real-world experience and training in an environment where learning and asking questions is tolerated and encouraged. With apprenticeships in the mechanical industry, students will be given the opportunity to receive tailored attention, all while learning industry processes. If local manufacturing companies and schools pair together, students will be given easy access into the mechanical field—allowing them to explore their interests and comprehend the various, unique facets within the industry.
Unfortunately, with many educational programs, money can be an issue. Though many affordable technical and mechanical programs exist, some courses can be quite expensive—which can bar the way for many potential students. To help promote the mechanical field, more manufacturing companies should offer student scholarships. Scholarships not only allow students to attend school or programs, but they also show them that the mechanical field is important, valued, and worthy of their time and talent.
Encourage Women to Participate in the Mechanical Field
In our society, mechanical and technical careers are often seen as strictly masculine pursuits, with men dominating the industry. With this mindset, women are often not encouraged to take mechanical courses. Though this is a serious problem, it can be helped. In order to stop the stigma, schools need to promote technical classes to girls at a younger age. Classes that involve critical thinking, problem-solving, and analysis should be pushed. Schools can also regularly host STEM-based events in elementary and middle schools to expose girls to the mechanical industry at a young age and allow them the opportunity to ask questions.
With budget cuts plaguing schools across the US, many districts find themselves unable to provide shop and industrial design classes due to lack of funds. To help stop the loss of mechanical skills, local manufacturing companies should partner with schools and help them by providing machinery and information.
Advanced School Involvement
To help increase interest in the manufacturing field, school corporations can do a number of things, such as:
- Invite guest speakers from the machinist field to provide information about different mechanical careers, as well as their personal insights into what makes the machinist industry unique.
- Involve parents by showing them the benefits and advances that can come with a mechanical career. Parents should all receive scholarship and internship information concerning mechanical and technical education.
- Promote shop classes in math, science, and design classes, because many students who excel in those courses already possess the skills and interests that would make them successful in the machinery industry.
- Provide interesting projects to complete in shop classes, like building a guitar on a CNC machine. With fun, collaborative projects offered, more students would be willing to sign up for machinery classes.
Listed above are only a few ways in which schools can help promote the manufacturing industry, yet many other actions can be taken.
As the skill gap continues to widen, fast actions should be taken to help counteract the loss of interest and knowledge increasingly seen in the manufacturing industry. Though the reports may seem bleak, we at Leading Edge Industrial believe that with increased focus and energy from both the industry and school districts, a slow reversal can take place. Contact us for further questions or tips with involving schools in the mechanical field.