It’s no secret that the industrial sector is a crucial part of the U.S. economy. In fact, according to the The Manufacturing Institute, every $1.00 invested in the manufacturing industry adds $1.37 to the nation’s overall economy.
Skills gap on the rise for industrial sectors
Despite these positive figures, the industrial sector has been experiencing a serious skills gap crisis. Quality magazine explained that industrial employers have reported that finding qualified candidates is next to impossible, which makes it difficult for them to grow their businesses and prosper. Conversely, young people ready to enter the workforce are often completely uneducated about fields like manufacturing, and aren’t aware of the types of careers they could pursue in the industrial sector.
The publication spoke to Joe Dutra, lead coordinator for Career Connect West in DuPage County, Illinois, who said people often have antiquated misconceptions about what manufacturing jobs entail.
“Once people hear about the opportunity to work on creating precise items for important machinery for things like health care and aerospace, all of a sudden manufacturing goes from working in a coal mine or working in a foundry to creating important tools that build our society,” Dutra explained.
Industry Week magazine noted that the skills gap has also partially been created by baby boomers. This group holds a large portion of manufacturing positions, and they are now aging and moving toward retirement at rapid pace. The source noted that between 2011 and 2013, about 10,000 more baby boomers will be eligible to retire each year.
Organizations search for creative solutions
The source reported that increased visibility for industrial sectors within educational institutions will be key for closing the skills gap. Many organizations have partnered directly with colleges or vocational training programs in order to entice new grads to pursue careers in industrial areas. Some companies, like Michelin, are taking this concept even further, by inviting middle schoolers to check out their facilities and learn more about what the organization does.
Some businesses are trying to connect with women who may be interested in industrial careers but who may otherwise be dissuaded due to the sector’s historical masculinity. For example, Alcoa donated $50,000 to the Society of Women Engineers that was used to fund programs at five colleges.