Sequestration and job training

March 14, 2013
By: Vicki Bell

You think the skilled worker shortage is bad now? It could get worse.

We’re almost two weeks into sequestration, and queued on the chopping block is federal funding for training programs. Last month, the National Skills Coalition released a report: “Disinvesting in the Skills of America’s Workforce – The Potential Impact of Sequestration on Key Federal Employment and Training Programs."

According to the report, “federal workforce development programs will be deeply impacted by these cuts. Despite federal disinvestments of more than 30 percent since 2001—with more than $1 billion in cuts just since 2010—critical employment and training programs stand to lose at least another $460 million in 2013 if the sequesters go into effect.

“Such cuts are already having an impact: a recent survey of workforce providers found that more than three quarters expected to reduce training as a result of already reduced funding levels, and nearly half believed they would have to cut back on services for employers seeking skilled workers.”

Then there’s this sobering statement: “There are more than 12.3 million unemployed U.S. workers and nearly 3.6 million job openings waiting to be filled. Despite an unemployment rate that remains above 8 percent, employers say everyday they cannot find workers with the right skills. Yet, we are facing the steepest decline in federal investments in the skills of our nation’s workforce in recent history. Our workers and businesses can’t afford these cuts. Congress must invest in and improve our nation’s workforce system, not eliminate it.”

While we are waiting to see what happens in Washington, perhaps it’s time to take another look at what more can be done to train manufacturing workers. Some companies, like abrasive waterjet manufacturer OMAX®, have partnered with educational facilities in training.

OMAX® recently received the Inspire Award from the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance (PNAA) acknowledging the company’s leadership and creativity in cultivating student interest in aerospace manufacturing careers.

The company serves as an ongoing mentor and supporter of Aviation High School’s Skunkworks Robotics and Highline High Tekerz Robotics teams. During a six-week build season, engineers work closely with students and teachers to produce advanced robot components. Teams design, fabricate, and test all robot components using advanced abrasive waterjet technology.

Also, the company has participated in rotating internship and co-op programs offered by educational institutions such as Kettering University, Renton College, The University of Washington, and Washington State University.

Will the participating students eventually work at OMAX? Possibly, but more likely, they will work in the aerospace industry, which uses waterjet technology. It’s a definite win for OMAX to continue this endeavor.

This is an example of a supplier helping train future workers. It’s a great idea and an important part of the answer to the worker shortage, but there’s more to be done.  I’ve blogged about this as recently as last fall—the need for apprenticeships.

NPR ran an outstanding piece last July about apprenticeships in Charlotte, N.C. It described the experiences of a young woman participating in an apprenticeship with Siemens. When Rebeca Espinal finishes her four-year training program, “she’ll graduate with an associate’s degree, a journeyman’s certificate in machining, and a guaranteed job that includes a starting salary of around $44,000 a year.”

Her mentor, Danny Hawkins, noted that “Siemens has a very large workforce that’s fixing [a good Southern term] to retire, and there’s nobody to replace them.”  So, Siemens is doing something about it. As is Blum, an Austrian manufacturer with a facility in Charlotte.

Andreas Thurner, who runs Blum’s apprenticeship program, said, “I think (the program cost) is a small price to pay because I know the time when we couldn’t do what we do now. We couldn’t grow the business. We could not get machines in that they wanted because we didn’t have the people to run it.”

Take a person with the right aptitude and attitude and train them for the job. It just might work. And you won’t have to worry about whether your local training program will survive sequestration.

Follow fabcomlady on Twitter.

Become a fan of The Fabricator® on Facebook.
FMA Communications Inc.

Vicki Bell

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8209