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  Manufacturing Insights   |   October, 2012
Manufacturing Skill Shortage Challenge Solved by Scientific Management Techniques
by Thomas R. Cutler

Paul Tate, Executive Editor of Manufacturing Executive & Manufacturing Leadership Council, shared a revealing new report on the growing skills gap in US manufacturing; data revealed that American companies cannot fill an estimated 600,000 skilled positions across the nation.

Called Boiling Point? The Skills Gap In US Manufacturing, the new survey also found that a substantial 82% of manufacturers have a moderate to severe shortage of available, qualified production workers. More than two-thirds reported a moderate to severe shortage in their overall workforce; 56% anticipate these shortages to grow worse over the next three to five years; and 64 percent of respondents noted workforce shortages and skills deficiencies in production roles are having a significant impact on their ability to expand operations or improve productivity.

Karen E. Klein recently reported (for Bloomberg Businessweek Small Business) another recent survey of 1,600 manufacturing companies in the U.S. It showed that nearly half the respondents have openings for line workers, skilled trade workers, and engineers, but many have trouble filling the positions. The survey, released by industrial product sourcing and supplier selection website, echoes other reports of skilled labor shortages. "Instead of lamenting the problem, manufacturers are helping educators establish training programs for prospective employees," noted Linda Rigano, executive director of strategic services at Thomas Industrial Network.

Best Manufacturing Skills Shortage Solution

Scientific Management Techniques (SMT) and Southwest Tennessee Community College collaborated to design and deliver a highly effective solution to the industrial skills shortage in the Memphis market. This model has national implications to solving the skills gap within the next year.

Stephen Berry, President of SMT, stated, "It has become clear that 'solution driven' community colleges like Southwest, collaborating with local industry, are positioned to deliver targeted training that will dramatically improve workforce skills as well as deliver the requisite productivity improvement for manufacturers. Working with Memphis manufacturing stakeholders, Southwest is proactively leading the way and delivering the model solution for other schools. Schools are working closely with manufacturers and workforce professionals to improve employability and industrial performance."

The hands-on training curriculum developed by SMT is unique in the industry. With hands-on training aids and interactive exercises, SMT trains to specific skillsets required for students to become productive members of the manufacturing team. Graduates are driving productivity for local manufacturers and feedback from Memphis employers is remarkable. The skill assessment component is critical to the program's success. The hands-on assessments identify mechanical instinct and aptitude pre-training; post-training assessments provide data to quantify the effectiveness of the training program and identify graduates as job-ready.

For forty years Scientific Management Techniques,, has delivered industrial skills training and assessment services. The assessment capabilities, together with demand-driven skills training program, are used in manufacturing and education organizations in thirty-one countries to solve the skills shortage and drive industrial productivity. SMT's founder Richard Whouley explained the evolution from industry to formal education, noting, "We delivered training in industrial facilities for many years in several countries prior to the introduction to the education market. Several manufacturing clients suggested that local community colleges embrace the SMT program based on the productivity improvements realized using the training system."

Getting Labor the Needed Skillsets Rapidly

SMT achieves these objectives due to the demand-driven curriculum design and the extensive use of over two hundred (200) hands-on training aids. The on-going skills shortage mandates this robust curriculum and training methodology; it translates efficiently into formal education as schools work with industry to identify effective training solutions creating workers with the required skillsets. SMT continues to deliver training in industrial facilities and works closely with schools and community colleges.

This approach allows the needed skillsets to be acquired quickly; in months, not years. Nowhere is that more urgent than among returning veterans. The US Department of Labor recently reported that 10.9% of post-9/11 military veterans are unemployed. That significant two-plus percentage points, higher than the national unemployment rate, is simply an unacceptable. There are 2.2 million post-9/11 military veterans in the US and the only way to honor these brave men and women who served this country is to ensure they are equipped with the needed skills to capture gainful employment. John C. Churchill, Director of Corporate Training and Continuing Education for Southwest Tennessee Community College noted, "The skills of the military personnel are transferable to industry. In an 80 to 120 hour course they can be job ready and collecting a paycheck."

Thomas R. Cutler is the President & CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based, TR Cutler, Inc., ( Cutler is the founder of the Manufacturing Media Consortium including more than 4000 journalists, editors, and economists writing about trends in manufacturing, industry, material handling, and process improvement. Cutler is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, Online News Association, American Society of Business Publication Editors, and Committee of Concerned Journalists, as well as author of more than 500 feature articles annually regarding the manufacturing sector. Cutler is the most published freelance industrial journalist worldwide. Cutler can be contacted at See More Details.

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