Manufacturers’ Role in Fighting Brain Drain

Companies need to take Gen Y education into their own hands.
Angela

Manufacturers are facing a talent gap caused by retiring baby boomers and the next generation's waning interest in manufacturing careers. Currently, there are approximately 600,000 unfilled manufacturing jobs in the U.S. because employers cannot find people with the skills they need, according to a recent Deloite report.

Alcoa CEO Klaus Kleinfeld expressed concern over the high number of unfilled jobs and the lack of well-educated workers to fill them in the recent Brookings Institution panel "Fostering Growth Through Innovation."

"About 40 percent and even more of those jobs in the future in manufacturing will require a post-secondary education," Kleinfeld says. While university programs are important in preparing the next generation for advanced manufacturing careers, according to Kleinfeld, corporations also need to help facilitate the next generation's education.

The historical model of education in the U.S., which was more flexible and more vocational, worked well, he says. The current K-12 plus college model, though, isn't working. "I think we have to go back to our origins and say, 'Let's make it more flexible,' and let's also bring the vocational element (back) in."

Manufacturers have an opportunity to help facilitate this change. "In fact, it's happening already," Kleinfeld says, citing successful Alcoa programs already in existence. "You suffer from the lack of getting good people if you don't take this into your own hands."

Industrial Careers Pathway, which encourages young people to pursue careers in industrial distribution, offers an internship and co-op guide for distributors to help build their own pipeline of future employees.

Some benefits of providing internships listed in the guide include:

  • The opportunity to watch prospective employees perform prior to hiring
  • Increased visibility with local schools and their students, and
  • The opportunity to provide current employees with management experience.
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