On this blog we've discussed manufacturing industry initiatives designed to grow the skilled labor talent pool in the face of a worker shortage. From apprenticeship programs to factory boot camps, companies and associations have gotten creative to groom a diverse, robust crop of next-generation manufacturing professionals. While the emphasis has been on young adults, a growing trend of manufacturing trade education in high schools may help jumpstart careers for students even before they receive their diplomas.
USA Today profiled a program in Wheeling, Illinois where students can earn $12-an-hour to learn the ropes in machine shops. Project Lead the Way is an organization that sponsors educational opportunities that empower young people to pursue careers in the technical sciences, including engineering and information technology. With excellent compensation in the long term including benefits, cultivating interest in our industry among high school students could be a successful strategy in closing the labor demand gap.
"You're getting paid, you have no debt and you get a job at $55,000," Eric Spiegel, CEO of Siemens USA, told the newspaper. "The average liberal arts graduate (from a four-year college) is making less than $40,000" or can't find a position in their field. "Meanwhile, we can't fill these technical jobs."
Many families daunted by the rising cost of higher education have turned to explore vocational training and its benefits. With a void to fill as the U.S. economy recovers from a recession, trade careers offer excellent salaries, benefits and a less expensive investment in training. Some large corporations are discovering it's worth their investment to fund training for employees themselves, and with federal incentives. Introducing teenagers to the field could plant seeds that will fortify the industry in the long term.