By Keith Belton, director, Indiana University Manufacturing Policy Initiative
On June 4-5, representatives from two dozen universities joined representatives from industry and the nonprofit sector in Washington, D.C., to discuss and advance “work-and-learn” strategies to create a workforce responsive to the needs of today’s manufacturers.
On the first day, keynotes were delivered by Patrick Hillberg of Siemens and author William Bonvillian.
Hillberg described his company’s efforts to help its customers find and recruit apprentices to address the skills gap in manufacturing. He described how employers have given too much power to accredited degrees, which too often do not convey the competencies needed in today’s workplace.
Bonvillian outlined the need for the U.S. to adopt an advanced manufacturing policy to drive innovation and competitiveness, with workforce training at the core.
Over the course of the day, participants shared innovative approaches and developed “ideal” approaches to educate and train students for 21st-century jobs.
The conversation about responding to manufacturers’ needs is also being taken up in Indiana. I shared research about apprenticeship programs serving manufacturers in the state. Friction in the labor market could be reduced through credentials that better reflect competencies valued most highly by today’s manufacturers. The most successful apprenticeship programs — those with the highest completion and retention rates — engage in the “upskilling” of existing employees. Indiana manufacturers identify the skills gap as a growing and significant problem and say apprenticeship programs represent a primary tool to fill this gap.