Experience Gap Greatest Challenge for Manufacturers
The Connecticut Employment and Training Commission’s Manufacturing Committee released a report detailing projected job vacancies and workforce priorities of the state’s manufacturers.
CETC provides workforce development policy and planning guidance to the governor and General Assembly.
After reviewing a number of recent statewide surveys, including CBIA’s 2014 Survey of Connecticut Manufacturing Workforce Needs, CETC piloted its own study of opportunities and challenges in manufacturing employment.
An ad hoc employer work group comprising representatives of CBIA and leaders of manufacturing associations, including employers and professional staff, reached out directly to a small group of manufacturers with specific questions such as:
- What are your current job vacancies and the wages and benefits associated with those jobs?
- What skills, qualifications, and experience does an employee need to perform well in each of those positions?
- Which vacancies do you have the most trouble filling? Why?
- How do you find qualified candidates? What services, schools, or programs are helpful?
- What practical pathways can employees pursue for a productive career within your company?
Information was gathered through 30 to 45-minute face-to-face interviews of company CEOs, senior management, plant operations managers, and senior HR officials at manufacturing facilities in northwestern Connecticut.
The scope of the pilot study was limited to companies within the Northwest Connecticut Manufacturers Coalition and Northwest Connecticut Chamber of Commerce to test the efficacy and efficiency of one-on-one interviews.
Companies ranged from those with fewer than 50 employees to those with several hundred at the production facilities visited.
The diverse mix included manufacturers involved in aerospace products, medical devices, electronics assembly, energy generation, stamping, precision machining, and engineering services.
- Most companies are willing to hire entry-level workers who show a positive attitude and aptitude for the work, even if no openings exist; the expectation is that work can be found and positions created for the right candidates.
- Job-specific, hands-on work experience is highly valued. Most graduates of the Connecticut Technical High School System and community college manufacturing programs are considered 3 to 5 years short of the hands-on workplace experience needed to qualify for current and anticipated machinist positions and other equivalent production jobs.
- Many employers acknowledged that companies like theirs fail to adequately explain and market manufacturing career opportunities to young people and their parents. Several of them also contended that launching an aggressive marketing/branding effort is the most valuable role the state can play.
Bridging the gap
Bridging the middle-skills experience gap is the unmet workforce challenge most in need of attention in the next 1-3 years, requiring intensive efforts to accelerate workers’ acquisition of occupational skills where increasing demand and changing demographics threaten a critical talent shortfall.
Examples include accelerated hands-on training for recent community college and technical high school graduates; more apprenticeships; and incumbent worker training during the off-hours at technical high schools, community colleges, adult education centers, and manufacturing labs.
“CETC’s Manufacturing Committee Report echoes the challenges CBIA has identified in its ongoing work with Connecticut manufacturers,” says Judy Resnick, executive director of CBIA’s Education Foundation.
“It reinforces the importance of effective partnerships to address the problem.
“Some of the key recommendations from this study—namely, creating a consolidated, data-driven approach to statewide manufacturing workforce strategy; really marketing manufacturing as a career pathway; supporting and strengthening high school and college-level manufacturing programs; and tackling the experience gap through innovate partnerships—are points worth communicating to our policymakers.”
CBIA economist Pete Gioia agrees.
“Developing more job-ready manufacturing worker candidates,” he says, “is critical for Connecticut to maximize the economic opportunity from new business being developed in commercial aerospace and defense.”
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