There are many factors that affect our local employers’ level of engagement when it comes to addressing the “Skills Gap”. In this blog post I will share my honest observations and opinions about some of these complicated issues. I will also offer some very well thought out suggestions and ideas for further consideration and discussion.
The first issue concerns the possibility that a cultural and management style change is desperately needed. I have found many cases where industrial management teams seem to place the development and improvement of front line workers very low on their priority list.
These managers appear to believe that when new employees are needed, experienced tradesmen and tradeswomen will be available to fill their needs. This is not the reality of our current situation. The industry is at the beginning of a glut of entry level skilled employees, for the welding and manufacturing industries.
To combat this situation, collaboration is the only possible way forward to sustainable growth in the welding and manufacturing world. This collaboration must involve all stakeholders to include employers, training institutions, current industrial management, existing workers and new apprentices/trainees.
This collaboration must start with the realization and acceptance by the stakeholders that it will require everyone’s participation. This effort should obviously start with intense communication between employers and training institutions. The employer involvement must include the participation in detailed development of standardized training curriculum. In regards to curriculum development, training institutions must stop trying to push trainees into outdated or inappropriate training that is not contributed to by regional industrial partners.
Is this call for collaboration “Collaborate or Die”, or is it “Collaborate or stay stagnate” and be left behind? Only time will tell how our industrial work world will develop into the future.
To stimulate discussion of our topic I wanted to present the following questions and possible answers.
1. What are the biggest challenges that employers face when seeking to fill welder/fabricator positions?
• Applicants with the desired skill set request a “High pay scale”.
• Entry level applicants need additional training.
• Current employer supervision has no time to mentor new hires.
• Existing workforce is not trained to develop new hires.
2. Why are recent welding school graduates unprepared to become part of the workforce?
• Graduates have limited entry level trade skills.
• Graduates have limited “basic skills” (reading, math, communication etc.).
• Graduates have a poor work ethic.
• Graduates lack good self-management skills.
3. What type of employer will attract the best welding and manufacturing talent?
• The employer that has a culture of professionalism for their tradesmen and women.
• The employer that accepts critical input for their front line workers.
• The employer that promotes professional development for all employees.
• The employer that will value a life / work balance.
4. Why should national industrial training standards be commonly used by training institutes?
• Because such training standards have been developed in partnership with industry.
• Employers will be able to easily identify the skills taught during such training.
• This would allow interested employers to develop supplementary training for new hires from such a program.
• Such training standards give “portability” to the certification earned.
5. What steps could stakeholders take to work toward fixing the broken industrial talent pipeline?
• Develop engaging partnerships with one another.
• Eliminate the fear of cultural change with in the workplace.
• Reach out to others for “Best Practices”.
• Adopt dedication to lifelong learning and continuous improvement.
By: Randy Emery
Randy Emery is a welding instructor at the College of the Sequoias and AWS Fresno Section Vice Chairman.