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DIY Way To Beat The Manufacturing Skills Gap: Schweitzer Engineering

The skills gap bedeviling U.S. manufacturers has given rise to hundreds of programs to train workers. And most of these efforts, though varied in other ways, share one important trait: the schooling that occurs happens offsite, not at the factories for which workers are being trained. It could be at a community college, regional or local “workforce development” agency, or other independent organization.

The aim is to develop and sharpen skills of a potential assembly worker, or higher skilled manufacturing player, and then plug them in to an ongoing company operation with as little ramp-up time as possible.

Many employers prefer this model. Given the narrowing of the mission at many companies – to a core competency of a relative handful of tasks, letting others handle less-central requirements of the workplace – it makes sense to them. The very nature of training and integration of new workers – some drop out, some don’t make the cut, even the best can slow down the operation with questions and adjustments – seems antithetical to some operations designed to run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, at flat-out 100% of capacity, with minimal layers of management.

But is there another way? The projected shortfall in manufacturing workers – the U.S. is expected to come up a full 2 million employees short of its required 3.4 million new workers in the sector in the decade ending 2025,  according to a study by the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte – is so significant that no approach should be ignored. And today, I want to recommend to every manufacturing CEO the very different experience of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, a maker of sophisticated equipment for the global power industry based in Pullman, Wash.

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