“Credentials today are more valuable to a manufacturer than a diploma,” said Bruce Braker, Director of the Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council (CMRC) and Treasurer of NIMS.
Additionally, Cervinka added that “66 percent of jobs in this country don’t require a degree—they require a certificate.” Despite the confirmation by the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC) that only about “seven percent of all manufacturing openings specifically required some type of certification” according to its 2011 report, an uptick in certification requirements is foreseeable as developments in this sector continue.
And while skill standards and credentials—such as MSSC, NCRC or NIMS certification—form the bridge between education and the workforce, many manufacturers today focus as much on the “soft” skills an employee has as much as they do on the industrial skills.
“The first thing that our partners are worried about is not the technical skills but the soft skills,” explained Bill Vogel, former President and Chief Executive Officer of DeCardy Diecasting and current Industrial Coordinator for Austin Polytechnical Academy. “’Are they going to be on time? Are they going to be professional?’” he questioned.
A manufacturing veteran, Vogel admitted that while leading DeCardy, he tried to hire high school students at the time but confirmed that now, it is a must.
“We need to have programs within our companies where high school students can learn while working but go to college and earn their degree,” he said. “It’s incumbent upon companies and manufacturers to get their employees involved in the education. Right now is the most exciting time for growth I have seen in 52 years. Manufacturing jobs are not the same any more. Yes, it is about learning how to run a machine but that’s only one part of it now. Workforce development is not a one-stop shop. The first thing to think about is the whole series of involvement with schools. The second thing is to make sure that your company is approaching it with mutual benefits. You’re doing something that is going to benefit your company—and you have to encourage that in your partners as well,” Vogel explained.
As the next generation of manufacturing continues to develop, it is equally important for students to ask themselves the key questions to identify if the manufacturing segment is one that they want to be in. ‘What kind of an engineer do you want to be? How creative do you need to be? Does your employer request that you be very self-structured and proficient in existing processes? Or do they want a worker who can develop new ways of doing things in manufacturing to be more production-efficient?’
Princeton, N.J.-based Caliper Corp. is one such workplace performance service provider who helped address workplace-employee compatibility for companies over the past 50-plus years.
“If you start with who you are, what are your strengths, what are your weaknesses and what do you enjoy doing, we can than build on that to say ‘here is who you are and here are the competencies that the job requires,’” explained Herb Greenberg, Ph.D., Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Caliper Corp. “One thing that we found in all of our research is that approximately 70 percent of people currently working are what we call ‘misemployed.’ That doesn’t mean that they should be fired tomorrow. It just means that they are in jobs that are not best suited to their personality. Often, they are in jobs directly opposite to what they should be doing,” he explained.
But there is one other side to this whole workforce spectrum—manufacturers must also remember to employ our veterans.
Earlier this year, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. made headlines in announcing their initiative to hire veterans. Last November, the Walmart Foundation awarded veteran service agency Swords to Plowshares with a statewide grant to improve and increase job training programs for California veterans.
Through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes program, more than 18,400 veterans and military spouses obtained jobs through December of 2012.