American employers spent $156.2B on training in 2011, states the 2012 State of the Industry Report by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), with small companies, generally, spending more in terms of hourly training than large companies. Of the fifty manufacturers who participated in the research, those firms provided more training in compliance, managerial and supervisory skills, and industry-specific training, than they did for other training courses such as executive development or basic skills. However, when looking at only the manufacturing data, direct expenditures on training per employee were approximately half of what the other sectors spent per employee. 
This annual report, on-going since the late 1990s, but with changes in its participants during that timeframe, has been a reliable indicator of how American companies keep themselves competitive by keeping their employees’ skills up-to-date. This latest report collected data from over 400 American businesses of all sizes and sectors in an effort to continue to parse out the most effective methods for deploying companies’ workforce development initiatives and the costs and rewards to those companies for doing so.
Embedded throughout the report are statistics to be used by the participating companies for their internal assessments, but the data can also be used by other companies that wish to benchmark their own talent management expenditures and strategies against like-sized and like-minded firms. The participating companies must collect and provide information on business goals, revenue and profits, training strategies, and training expenditures to receive a customized report from ASTD. The public State of the Industry Report is aggregate data used in that publication.
In analyzing the overall data, ASTD has concluded that in the successful companies – those that treat training as a corporate business procedure – training is consciously tied to business goals, the companies provide many ways to learn, and good coursework is thoughtfully developed so it can be used in many ways and continually re-used.
Data, so integral to quality control and production processes, can be used to monitor and analyze training investments in much the same way. NIST MEP believes talent management and workforce development are critical to manufacturers’ success and, as such, is working on a technology application – SMARTalent – to help SMMs get the data they need to make good decisions about training. For more information about what NIST MEP is doing in Workforce, visit http://www.nist.gov/mep/workforce.cfm to learn more, or email Stacey Wagner, manager of workforce systems development at Stacey.wagner [at] nist.gov (Stacey[dot]wagner[at]nist[dot]gov).