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A Whole Lotta Training Going On

I read three daily newspapers and subscribe to a news aggregator service, so I feel that I have my finger on the pulse of not only daily events, but trends over time (at least as reported by the media).  And although it seems to be feast or famine reporting as to how fast the economy is recovering, one thing that has really struck me is the number of articles discussing workforce training.

For a very long time, there were rumblings about the inadequacy of workforce training being provided to job seekers.  In fact, I was once one of the rumblers.  But given the articles I’ve been reading over the last year, it seems there’s a whole lot more training taking place, nowadays, as the economy rebounds. Employers are hiring again.

I’m sure some of this workforce training is very good, but I can’t say for sure. I’ve seen an increased interest in certificates and credentials over the last several years, and I believe they can be useful as standards for workforce readiness.  Employers need assurances that job applicants have the skills they require for their operations. Especially manufacturers.  Manufacturing has changed a great deal over the last decade with fewer factory floor workers and more high-skilled technicians and engineers.  The accelerated use of robotics, operational automation, distributed markets and suppliers, and cloud-based technology has turned manufacturing from a labor-intensive sector to a knowledge-driven one.  Manufacturing job applicants must now have a strong STEM education background and an understanding of topics such as materials engineering, CAD, energy management, computer programming, simulation, electronics and hydraulics.

It’s often difficult to parse through the various degrees, certificates and certifications handed out in order to understand which ones are reliable indicators of skills.  Many are good, some maybe not so good, but the proliferation of them makes it hard to know.

However, one national set of standards and credentials, backed by the National Skills Standards Board, is Manufacturing Skill Standards Council’s (MSSC) certified production technician and logistics technician awards.  A founding partner in The Manufacturing Institute’s Skills Certification System  MSSC provide courses, training, textbooks, benchmarks and diagnostics, and awards for their curricula and testing. They have over 600 authorized instructors and 340 test sites in 38 states. They’ve awarded 38,000 credentials to date.

The magic in credentialing is that there is no magic. Manufacturers must be explicit about the knowledge, skills and abilities they want in an employee and must work with education and training providers to be clear about human capital demand and supply. Here at NIST MEP, we encourage MEP center partnerships with workforce investment boards and community colleges. Our feeling is that it’s never too early to plan your investments – whether they are in new technology platforms, new processes or new workforce skills.

About the author

Stacey Wagner

Guest blogger Stacey Jarrett Wagner has more than 20 years of experience in workforce development, conducting research and providing strategic thinking and technical assistance on workforce development issues.

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