High unemployment has muted manufacturing’s cry for skilled workers, but the cry is still there. It’s a paradox. As manufacturers shed unskilled workers, those who are left must be more skilled and versatile than ever. According to the Labor Department, American manufacturing produces more value per worker than ever before: eight times more productive, in real dollar terms, than workers were in 1941, thanks to skills and application of technology.
Technology, though, presents a problem for those training tomorrow’s skilled labor force. When it comes to training, it’s true that shop classes are shuttered in part because of misperceptions. School leaders follow media coverage of our “service-based economy” and adjust curricula to suit. But even during the good times, this wasn’t the only reason schools shifted resources away from shop classes.
Shop class is expensive.
Can you image a school buying the latest and greatest equipment, just as it forces teachers to take furlough days to make budget? Even conventional shop classes, with basic equipment, cost more per student than English classes. (As an aside, you could ask why schools spend so much on sports, which is also more expensive than English class. But follow the money—ticket sales, sponsorships, and the rest—and these programs may not be such a huge drain on cash as they might appear.)
The solution could involve sending more money to schools by raising taxes, but we know that’s not likely. Another option is for industry leaders to take matters into their own hands. This is what’s happening in northern Ohio. Lakeland Community College is teaming up with the Alliance for Working Together, a group of 60 local manufacturers, to develop a manufacturing degree program.
AWT member Rich Peterson is vice president of business development at Astro Manufacturing, a metal fabrication and machining company in Eastlake, Ohio. He told The News-Herald, a northern Ohio newspaper, that the group is working to change manufacturing’s image and expose kids to what’s really going on at today’s manufacturing enterprises.
The group may solve another issue. Peterson said the program details are being sorted out, but he asked a good question: "Where can they do work with equipment? Can they come [to different companies] and the company will sponsor that?”
That may be a viable solution. Many say kids just aren’t exposed to manufacturing technologies. That’s true, but it’s not just because of manufacturing’s image and lack of media coverage. Machines cost a lot of money. Sure, plant tours for school kids are great, but letting students operate machines (with appropriate supervision, of course) would be something else. Exposing kids early on like this would counteract the erroneous notion that U.S. manufacturing is going the way of the dodo.
We all know government is broke, and we’re not that keen about paying more taxes so secondary and technical schools can expand (or relaunch) their manufacturing programs. So how about grabbing the skilled-labor issue by the horns, opening the shop floor, and exposing interested kids to the meat and potatoes of modern metal fabrication? It may or may not be possible, but at the very least, it’s a good question to ask.
Introducing ByStar Fiber. Designed for Fiber. Unrivaled for Speed.
Innovation is at the core of the ByStar Fiber – 100% designed for fiber laser cutting, without compromises -- for users who will in the future cut their entire range of orders using fiber laser technology. High cutting dynamics, thin to thick cutting capabilities, seamless automation solutions, intelligent sensor technology and integration into modern software systems – it’s all possible with the NEW High Performance Bystar Fiber from Bystronic. Visit our website.
Not all of us work 9 to 5. Some people work different shifts. While some enjoy doing so, it isn’t for everyone. No matter the reason behind it, those who work odd hours must be keenly aware of the aspects of such work that potentially are detrimental to their health and quality of life.
Practical Welding Today was created to fill a void in the industry for hands-on information, real-world applications, and down-to-earth advice for welders. No other welding magazine fills the need for this kind of practical information.