Nearly all of us are impacted by the changing landscape of work. As automation and machine learning become a bigger part of the landscape, people in professions from banking to health care to construction are impacted by new technology and need to learn new skills. These new technologies can improve work by making routine tasks obsolete, freeing people up to do what machines can’t – think critically and creatively to solve problems.
At the same time, the global talent shortage is at a 12-year high, according to ManpowerGroup. There were record 6.9 million job openings in the U.S. in August 2018. And, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 6.2 million people are unemployed. This is the first time since the U.S. government has started tracking information on job openings that there were more jobs than people available.
Not enough people are applying for jobs, say employers, and many of those that apply either don’t have enough experience or lack the needed skills to fill the role. Some of the hardest roles to fill globally are in trade skills, sales, engineering and manufacturing.
Should secondary, and even primary, schools do more to prepare students for jobs in trades and manufacturing? Can governments support more programs to help workers fill open jobs? Should businesses do more to train the existing workforce?
Ideally, they will work together to form partnerships and create solutions. Many groups are already doing good work to fill the skills gap.
The World Economic Forum has a key initiative focused on shaping the future of education, gender and work to address the skills gap and ensure education and training are meeting needs. Their Closing the Skills Gap Project looks at country implementations and brings together leaders from business, government and education in countries and regions. They are also focused on consolidating global business commitments to train current and future workers in ways that are beneficial to both businesses and communities.
The World Economic Forum also reports what countries are doing to develop the knowledge and skills of their citizens to create value in the world economy. The 2017 Global Human Capital Report ranks 130 countries across four categories and by age group.
Three European countries performed best at tapping into their citizen’s potential in 2017 – Norway, Finland and Switzerland. The United States was ranked fourth and Denmark was fifth. All these countries have high participation in advanced education and initiatives to promote high participation in the workforce.
Government officials in Norway point to high participation of women in the workplace, and programs to make it easier for parents to work with generous parental leave and subsidized daycare. Finland is working to attract skilled workers from other countries to address labor shortages in several industries.
In the U.S., many state governments have developed programs to address skills gaps locally. Colorado has developed partnerships and is working through a program called Skillful to address the need for more workers in middle-skill jobs – roles that require skills and training beyond high school, but not a bachelor’s degree. The program integrates businesses, non-profits, state government and educators and works with employers to determine which skill sets are most needed. Skillful helps match applicants with employers and helps educators determine what training is most needed.
The Justice to Journeyman program in Kentucky works to transition felons and juvenile offenders back into the community by preparing them for middle-skill jobs. The state labor and justice departments work with companies to train and apprentice the prisoners. Studies show that felons who find work are much less likely to reoffend. A study from the national non-profit Safer Foundation found that the three-year recidivism rate dropped from 52 percent to 16 percent with one year of employment.
Many companies are partnering with not-for-profit companies who help businesses, government, students and educators come together. SkillsUSA is an organization that connects state agencies with education and industry to prepare students for the future. Tim Lawrence, executive director, sums up his organization’s mission. “We know that we are meeting a need for industry but making a big difference for the students involved,” he says.
According to Tim, SkillsUSA has served nearly 13 million students over the years and he was a member of the program as a student welder. “But, it’s not about the numbers – it’s about lives,” he says. “We are changing lives every day. The students know they are learning real-world skills that are in demand. They are learning technical skills and personal skills like work ethic and integrity. They will be well-prepared for the future.”
Rose Bauss, a SkillsUSA board member, says being a part of SkillsUSA has given her a new appreciation for the skilled trades. Her employer, a major automotive manufacturer, is seeing a tremendous need in dealerships for certified technicians and sees a great value in elevating the skilled trades. “Education is important,” says Rose. “There are many kinds of learners and many kinds of talents. We are making sure that those who have those talents hear that their work is valued.”
3M partners with SkillsUSA to prepare students for the workforce. “The world around us is changing at an unprecedented speed and with that comes a change in the type of skills that are required,” says Mojdeh Poul, 3M executive vice president, Safety and Graphics. “It is critical that companies like 3M help with education and training of next generation of workers.”
Besides SkillsUSA, 3M also works with the National Coalition of Certification Centers – or NC3 —to establish national skills standards in transportation, aviation and energy. NC3 facilitates partnerships between industry and education. to ensure workers are getting trained with the most relevant skills. Industry benefits by knowing workers are learning current and relevant skills. Students benefit from having additional knowledge and marketable skills that prepare them for work.
According to the Manufacturing Institute, there will be about 3.4 million jobs in manufacturing by 2025. Due to retirement and a lack of skilled workers, only 1.4 million of those jobs will be filled, leaving a need for 2 million workers.
3M has manufacturing locations in 37 countries and across many states in the U.S. When their plant in Hutchinson, Minnesota, started to see a decrease in qualified workers, 3M leaders stepped up their investment in community programs developing a pipeline of talent.
According to Joe Nelson, plant engineering manager, 3M manufacturing locations have been partnering with local community colleges in and near their individual cities for more than 10 years. In the last few years, they have seen their talent pool shrinking. “We realized that we need to get students involved earlier – in high school. If they are the right fit, if they have mechanical aptitude, we should get them going in the direction of a technical degree.”
This initiative to start getting students interested in manufacturing while in high school has evolved into a program called Manufacturing and Academic Partnerships – or MAP.
Luke Kamrath is a former student and current 3M employee who has seen the benefits of the partnership. He was introduced to the mechatronics program – technology combining electronics and mechanical engineering – while in high school. “The mechatronics program matched up with my interests in doing hands-on work and it helped me improve my skills,” he says. “I knew I’d be working on cool equipment and doing what I like.”
MAP takes a holistic approach to bridging the skills gap by working with schools to provide grants for equipment and curriculum, professional development for instructors, scholarships for students and involving 3M employees as mentors.
“It’s impressive to see the new technology centers. Some schools had their shop classes out in a separate building,” says Joe. “These training centers are being placed in the center of the school – they are not treated as an afterthought. That sends a powerful message.”