As U.S. manufacturing continues to see improvement in both orders and job creation, factories face a collective problem that could put a damper on this growth: the skills gap. As more jobs become available, and as a growing number of qualified workers begin to retire from the workforce, the need for trained, qualified workers from younger generations becomes ever more necessary. And this need will not change anytime soon.
The skills gap is already taking effect on the industry. Over 50% of the industry’s workforce will retire in the next 10 years, and over 20.5 million new workers will be required to fill employment demands. Many companies, however, cannot train students fast enough to meet the demand needed - which is a problem that both manufacturers and educators are taking steps to improve.
That’s why we’ve partnered with a program in precision machining at Traverse Bay Area Early College and Northwestern Michigan College last fall. The program allows qualified high school students to take college courses in hopes they will develop the training they need to enter the manufacturing industry after graduation. As of now, 24 students are participating in the program, working on CNC milling machines, as well as manual lathes and other equipment.
After students master the manual lathes, they move on to working with modern CNC machines, including Mazak’s highly advanced QUICK TURN NEXUS 250-II MSY Multi-Tasking turning center that’s being used in the industry today. The program acquired the machine with help from the manufacturing advocacy group Cutting Edge Educational Development Solutions (CEEDS) as well as TBAISD Career-Tech Center.
This hands-on machine training is supplemented with on-site experience, including internships, work ethic development programs and supportive 1-to-1 mentor relations, that gives students a real-world look at the industry and better prepares them for a successful career.
“We are fortunate to have a strong, on-going relationship with local manufacturers who identify the growing demand for skilled careers, provide cooperative training, job placement and continued industry advisory support which help our students,” says Matt Teeter, CTC Precision Machining Technology program instructor.
More than two dozen of the program’s former students now hold full-time jobs at companies in the Traverse City area, and many more work for manufacturers all around the Midwest. This is just one of the many steps being taken to fill the skills gap in U.S. manufacturing.