It is a positive thing when unemployment numbers in our country are at record lows and consumer confidence is on the rise. With so much good news, it’s easy to be optimistic about the future. However, as the economy continues to grow and businesses add jobs, we need to continue to focus on the skills gap that exists in our industry’s workforce. At a recent House Republican Leadership press conference, Congressman Paul Ryan talked about “the need for more workers and especially workers with the right skills.” The jobs are there, but the right people to fill these positions are needed more than ever.
Last month, the House passed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. To help close the skills gap, this bipartisan bill takes tremendous steps in enhancing skills training, refocusing programs on student outcomes, and providing funding and flexibility to promote career and technical education at a state level.
However, most of the work needs to be done at a local level. Above all, we need businesses, schools, and communities to work together to find solutions. Precision Plus is fortunate to be in Southeast Wisconsin to witness many of these partnerships already taking place, and in many instances, being a part of them.
The partnership between Foxconn and Gateway Technical College (GTC) is a strong example of working together to strengthen the ever-changing workforce. Foxconn promises to create thousands of good-paying, high-skilled jobs, and GTC is developing a special curriculum designed to ensure workers have the needed skills to fill the positions. In fact, GTC is even building a new campus right next to Foxconn to train this workforce.
Our area high schools are also doing their part to ensure students are being exposed to the education and skills needed when it comes to future manufacturing careers. New Berlin High School is helping students prepare for their future with the help of facilities such as their engineering lab, construction lab, and TechKNOW, a student-driven technology support program. The School District of New Berlin is also encouraging students to complete a college-level experience while still in high school, and approximately 90 percent of students are taking advantage of this before they graduate. Elkhorn Area High School’s (EAHS) notable renovation of their Technical Education wing two years ago has strengthened the programs that had already been in place, such as career guidance, Project Lead The Way, SkillsUSA, and more. It should be noted that the renovation also depended on the local community’s support. By voting in favor of a $20 million school referendum that supported stronger technical education programs, the community demonstrated they are willing to do what it takes to make a better future for our young adults.
The upcoming September trip to IMTS 2018 is another significant investment in our future workforce. Once again, Precision Plus is looking forward to being an active participant in this biennial event that showcases the state of today’s manufacturing and that of the future. By collaborating with Hudapack Metal Treating, Palmer Hamilton, Certified Power Train (CPT), and the Elkhorn Area School District, we are able to give the participants an elite IMTS experience, “Operation Exploration: Business, Community, and School Working Together.” It is wonderful to be able to inspire students to pursue a career in advanced manufacturing and technology at this must-experience event. Their involvement will certainly help them connect what they are learning in school with real-world ideas and spread the message that a career in manufacturing is rewarding and well-paying.
If we want to continue to grow and expand our economy, we need to be innovative in addressing the skills gap and training the next generation of workers. There are many positive things happening right here is Southeast Wisconsin and elsewhere. However, we must also stay ahead of the curve and remember how we got here. The skills gap is partly the result of an outdated relationship between education and work, as well as an old-fashioned perception of what manufacturing in the U.S. looks like. It is an ever-changing world and necessary skill sets will continue to evolve. Let’s continue to work together to meet any future challenges.