It is a great, but terrifying time to be a manufacturer in the United States. New manufacturing plants are popping up and existing manufacturers are pushing their capacity to the limit. The big issue that remains however, is the skills gap. Retiring baby boomers are vacating skilled manufacturing jobs. To complicate matters our culture tends to emphasize academics more than job happiness. Anyone involved in manufacturing knows it can be an extremely rewarding field to work in and many great jobs do not require a four year degree to perform. There should be no shame for an individual who would prefer to build things and work with their hands while contributing to an incredible economic powerhouse. That’s not to say that manufacturing is just a blue collar paradise. There are jobs of every shape, size and technical qualification and modern manufacturing is a far cry from the dark dirty factories of the past. If you spend a little time with these hard working talented people, you will see how passionate they are about their jobs, communities and making quality products.
People used to believe that you didn’t have to be happy at work to succeed. And you didn’t need to like the people you work with, or even share their values. “Work is not personal,” the thinking went. This is bunk. – HBR
Manufacturer Led Solutions
In recent years, a number of manufacturers have organized to address the skills gap directly in their own communities. They do this by working directly with educators. We don’t see real change without the efforts of these people, they are the answer to this problem and they need our support. These are just some examples from here in California, but initiatives and groups like them are forming all over the country:
- Grow Manufacturing Initiative
- San Joaquin Manufacturing Alliance
- Sacramento Valley Manufacturing Initiative
Grow Manufacturing Iniative
In Northern California, centered in Chico, CA. Manufacturers organized to form GMI and they have made a real impact in the communities they service. They have been very successful in aligning the skills being taught with the needs of local manufacturers. They host an annual manufacturing expo as well as train the trainer (educators) events. Bill Gaines of Transfer Flow was also instrumental in inspiring the formation of the Sacramento Valley Manufacturing Initiative. You can learn more about Bill and GMI in Episode 1 of the Manufacturing Advocates Podcast.
San Joaquin Manufacturing Alliance
In the Central Valley, centered around Fresno, CA. Manufacturers organized to form SJVMA. They have achieved great results in addressing the needs of manufacturers for a skilled workforce and have formed a sizable organization that also includes an annual manufacturing summit that attracts hundreds of participants, vendors and sponsors. Mike Betts of Betts Manufacturing is incredibly passionate and dedicated a tremendous amount of his own time and resources to helping establish and make SJVMA a viable and effective organization. You can hear more about the formation of SJVMA in Episode 9 of the Manufacturing Advocates Podcast.
Sacramento Valley Manufacturing Initiative
In the greater Sacramento Area, manufacturers including Harris and Bruno, Tri Tool, Snowline Engineering, Garner Products, Siemens, JL Haley, TechnicFMC, Zi Machine, and Blue Diamond Growers along with some affiliates including Managed Solutions formed SVMI in 2018. The group has already hosted train the trainer events, factory tours and established a dedicated and passionate board of directors. They recently launched their website, and will be working hard to meet the work force demands of manufacturers in the area for years to come.
The best way to help address the skills gap is to get involved with these organizations by becoming a member or sponsor. If you do not presently have a group like them in your area, you can start by getting involved in your local SME chapter. There you will meet other like minded individuals who are passionate about manufacturing. Share this article with them or links to the groups we featured here. Encourage your local manufacturers to launch similar initiatives. If they seem reluctant, just ask them where their workers will be coming from over the next 5-10 years, that is likely to get their attention.
We proudly support SVMI as an affiliate member, and will continue to advocate for all US manufacturers as well as manufacturing in general. It is a key industry to create opportunity and economic prosperity for all people. Joe Wernette, CEO of Tri Tool, Inc. (client) and VP/Treasurer of SVMI said it best:
“I joined SVMI to make the world a safer and better place by training the workforce of tomorrow.”
—Joe Wernette, CEO, Tri Tool