This article was originally published in ReshoreNow.org

In view of the latest Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey from the National Association of Manufacturers, it should be no surprise that the greatest challenge facing manufacturers of all sizes continues to be finding a qualified workforce. In fact, the inability to attract and retain workers remained respondents’ top concern for eight consecutive surveys, noted as the top concern by almost 70 percent of respondents.

To close the growing skills gap, groups of employers, community colleges, workforce agencies, intermediaries, youth programs, labor organizations, policy experts, and others across the country are collaborating. Through public-private partnerships, they are advancing apprenticeship and work-based learning strategies to provide workforce development and talent solutions for American businesses.

New-Collar Workers

As the economy evolves, technology advances, and the workforce changes, individuals will need to have the relevant skills, intellectual curiosity, and willingness to learn and adapt for new-collar jobs. IBM’s former CEO Ginni Rometty has been calling for government and business leaders not to think in terms of white-collar or blue-collar jobs, but new-collar jobs instead. Rometty said she believed that these were jobs that may not require a traditional college degree. New-collar workers may have degrees, or they may have gained the necessary skills through vocational training while in high school. New collar is about skills, not degrees.

While some of these new-collar jobs require a college education, most are “middle-skill” jobs requiring a high school diploma, a foundation of math and science along with some additional training offered by an apprenticeship and/or a credentialing program. The industry must invest in multigenerational employee retention and reskilling programs to strengthen and elevate in-house teams.

Most of these new-collar jobs are entry-level requiring a high school diploma, a foundation of math and science, along with some additional training offered by an apprenticeship and other workforce development programs. Job seekers who possess the required technical and leadership skills and some work experience are well-positioned to take advantage of these new-collar opportunities to lead a post-pandemic recovery.

Replenishing the Talent Pipeline

The U.S. educational system is designed to graduate career-ready citizens with the needed employable skills and knowledge to obtain the first job or to continue with post-secondary education and/or credentialing for success in work and life. To achieve this goal, educators in public-private partnerships along with employers and organizations like the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) and other leading learning organizations are becoming more engaged in the post-pandemic educational requirements for career-ready citizens. To help students learn more about careers in advanced manufacturing AME offers a free student membership.

One of these partners is the Learning First Alliance that is a partnership of leading educational organizations representing more than 10 million members dedicated to improving student learning in America’s public schools. They share examples of success, encourage collaboration, and work toward the continual and long-term improvement of public education based on solid research.

Meanwhile, nonprofit organizations like Project Lead the Way and Virtual Enterprises International have partnered with school districts across North America to provide students with authentic pre-engineering and pre-business experiences. High school students who complete these programs have a better understanding and a more solid foundation for understanding manufacturing through STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and business lenses.

These initiatives are designed to help reinforce the need for Career Technical Education (CTE) as an educational strategy that equips learners with the academic and technical skills they need to be prepared for future careers. Today’s CTE delivers real options for college and rewarding careers, helps learners build real-world skills, and enhances the high school and college experience. CTE is having a positive effect on graduation rates where 95% of CTE students graduate high school, which is 10% higher than the national average. Seventy-eight percent of CTE graduates enroll in post-secondary education full-time.

To put more emphasis on the need to prepare students and workers for the future of work, President Trump has asked companies to commit to expanding programs that educate, train and reskill American workers of all ages by signing the Pledge to America’s Workers. The White House workforce development program focuses on vocational job training and apprenticeships as a positive alternative to the almost-default setting of a four-year college degree approach.

One of the nation’s premier apprenticeship programs was founded in 1919 at Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS), a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries, in Newport News, Va. NNS is an Association for Manufacturing Excellence Corporate member. The Apprentice School program is an industry-driven, hands-on apprenticeship college for individuals interested in pursuing a career in advanced shipbuilding.

Apprenticeship at NNS is a formal training program that provides workers both theoretical and practical on-the-job training and instruction in the shipbuilding trades. Today’s apprentices are well-paid men and women requiring high-performance skills and abilities that will serve them throughout their shipbuilding careers.“Apprenticeships are the new gold standard,” stated the Reshoring Initiative founder and CEO Harry Moser. “All countries, even Germany, are having problems attracting and training skilled workforces. The U.S. will bring back from offshore millions of manufacturing jobs when its apprenticeship system goes from being a laggard to a world leader.”


Glenn Marshall, Newport News Shipbuilding Career Pathways (retired), member of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) Management Team initiative for leading a “Manufacturing Renaissance” and the Jobs Creators Network. For more information: [email protected] or go to www.ame.org>

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