A lot of people talk about how new technological advancements in automation, 3D printing, and AI are going to improve manufacturing but lead to a new kind of worker being required to fill manufacturing jobs. However, few people address where this “new kind of worker” is going to come from. According to the article “For the Manufacturing Industry, School is in Session” by Adina Solomon, there is an expected need for 3.5 million manufacturing workers in 2025 but only 1.5 million of those jobs are projected to be filled because of an anticipated proficiency gap in the labor market of about 2 million jobs. Below are examples of how two groups of people are working today to try and address this problem and prepare the next generation to fill these new manufacturing roles that are much different from those of the past.
In Indiana, Seymour High School has started a business called OWL Manufacturing (based on the school’s mascot) which is run by students at the school. Students working at the business elect to take this as a course and spend their time working in a manufacturing environment for school credit. The purpose of the business was to give students a hands-on learning environment where they can learn about how the manufacturing jobs of today are different from the days of their parents, teach them valuable skills to be used in a manufacturing role, and build excitement for a career in manufacturing. Since its launch in 2016, they have gone from 17 to 43 students working in all sorts of roles and many of the graduates who went through this program either went straight into a manufacturing role or are attending secondary schooling with the intent of getting a career in manufacturing. While this program is currently unique to the state it would not be surprising to see more pop-up. This is because the Governor of Indiana, Eric Holcomb, signed an executive order in 2017 to create the Office of Work-Based Learning and Apprenticeship whose goal is to help support and create programs like OWL Manufacturing to educate and raise interest for the manufacturing jobs of the future.
More information on OWL Manufacturing can be found here: https://sites.google.com/prod/scsc.k12.in.us/shsowlmfg/home
More information on the Office of Work-Based Learning and Apprenticeship can be found here: https://www.in.gov/dwd/apprenticeship.htm
In North Carolina, businesses have been stepping up to the plate instead of schools. A consortium of companies from the state have come together to form the Guilford Apprenticeship Partners (GAP). The goal of GAP is to recruit high school students into an apprenticeship while they are in high school and then, once the students graduate, provide them tuition at a local two-year college where they can get their associates degree while working full-time in a manufacturing environment. Throughout the entire four year program the student works in a manufacturing environment giving them hands-on experience in the career for which they are getting an education to pursue. The other primary purpose of GAP is to educate current students and their parents about how jobs in manufacturing are changing in order to counteract some of the stereotypes that manufacturing jobs are “dirty and physically difficult”. The other benefit of this program is that it offers students who want a career in manufacturing a cheaper route than completing a four-year degree and accumulating student loan debt.
More information on GAP can be found here: https://gapnc.org/
- What are other states doing to try and tackle this issue? Are there other programs similar to these out there right now?
- Will these types of programs be enough to cover the 2 million job gap that is currently expected? Are these programs and ones like it making a significant enough impact?
How will apprenticeship programs like GAP change the way younger generations view secondary education? Will we see less enrollment in the standard four-year degree and an increase in trade schools or associate degrees?