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High Schools Are Fertile Ground for Manufacturing Workers

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Community organizations are working with manufacturers to developed skilled workers while they’re still in high school.

The manufacturing skills gap in the US could hit 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030, according to a study by Deloitte and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). The study’s findings come from online surveys of more than 800 US manufacturing leaders. The lack of skilled labor was the industry’s major challenge even before the pandemic, according to the NAM’s quarterly outlook surveys. The new study shows it’s still a major concern.

The hard data: About 1.4 million U.S. manufacturing jobs were lost during the early days of the pandemic. The industry has largely recovered many of those lost jobs, but there is still an overhang of about 60,000 to 70,000 unfilled skilled manufacturing jobs in the US.

Take the Jobs to High School

Some manufacturing organizations are seeking solutions to job shortages by turning to educational institutions. It has become common for manufacturers and community leaders to engage community colleges in developing a skilled workforce for manufacturers. A new twist on the effort is to turn to high schools.

A Louisville inner-city high school is preparing students for skilled manufacturing jobs:

A similar program is the Northeast Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP). The organization is run by the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network (MAGNET) in Cleveland. MAGNET offers consulting, training, strategies, and management practices to manufacturers.

More importantly, the program has developed an apprenticeship training program that starts with high school students. The students begin learning about advanced manufacturing when they enter the ninth grade and are introduced to robots, 3D printers, artificial intelligence, and other cutting-edge techniques. By the time they become high school juniors and seniors, the students can move into paid internships with many local manufacturing companies.

Students work two days a week at a manufacturing facility while attending high school. The manufacturing companies invest in these trainees and reimburse the program half of the labor cost when the internship program is completed by high school grads. MAGNET’s advanced apprenticeship program sets high school students on an accelerated career path.

MAGNET’s mission is to ensure manufacturers have the skilled workers they need to grow. Part of that solution is to upskill existing workers, including people who are out of work, looking for a change, or just underemployed.

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