In IndustryWeek's "Closing the Skills Gap One Apprentice at a Time," reporter Steve Minter says there's "a resurgence of interest among U.S. manufacturers in apprenticeship programs and vocational education." Manufacturers face skills gaps from "employment declines, outsourcing and a perception... that manufacturing is a poor choice for America’s youth. [But] according to the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled over the next decade and 2 million are expected to go unfilled," says Minter.
Some manufacturers select high school juniors and seniors as apprentices. But many families and educators discourage careers in manufacturing for the pay, the grime, and the potential for the job to move to China.
But in those facilities where coordinators wow families with their advanced machinery and the program itself, manufacturers recruit students for their apprenticeship program. Students then split time between school and the program.
Some programs might include instruction on "assembly techniques, hand tools, measurements, working with CNC machines, manual mills, manual lathes, tooling, and quality control tools," says Minter. Students also learn basic work skills - sometimes more important skills - such as punctuality, communication, and a positive attitude. Some students even find that the vocation isn't for them. But the goal is to help them along their career path of choice rather than simply recruit them for a specific company.
In one program, students work year-round: part-time during the school year and full-time in the summer. "They start at minimum wage and receive four increases during the course of their training," says Minter. At the end of the program, apprentices earn certification to work in similar manufacturing plants.