By 2020 there will be a shortage of 875,000 machinists, welders, industrial-machinery mechanics and industrial engineers, according to a Boston Consulting Group report
Manufacturers are working with high schools and community colleges in hopes of closing the industrial skills gap, writes Katherine Peralta on U.S. News.
Unlike other teenagers’ summer jobs, Brett Fledderman’s begins at 6 o’clock in the morning, has him programming metal stamping equipment and pays $9 an hour, well above his home state Indiana’s $7.25 minimum. The 17-year-old is part of a new job training program in Batesville in which local businesses, the community college and the high school collaborate to ready a new field of talent for jobs in manufacturing.
“I learn a lot faster with hands-on work, so stuff like this really makes me learn a lot faster than I would in the classroom,” says Fledderman, who’s working this summer at Batesville Tool & Die, a 400-employee company that makes and supplies metal stamping components for the car, appliance and industrial sectors.
Nationwide, most machinists, welders and industrial maintenance workers are “50-something,” says Gardner Carrick, vice president of strategic initiatives at the Manufacturing Institute , a research arm of the National Association of Manufacturers. Companies need to build a pipeline of skilled workers to prepare for the coming “retirement crunch,” he says.
Most manufacturing areas have enough skilled workers now, but five cities – Miami, San Antonio, Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Wichita, Kansas – have “significant or severe” skills gaps already.
In Indiana, machinists, tool and die makers, welders, cutters, solderers and brazers pay a median wage of at least $17, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
At Batesville High, 70 to 80 percent of students plan to go to a four-year college or university, says Jim Roberts, the school corporation’s superintendent. School administrators have had to “redirect to a more practical approach” in educating students about realistic job market prospects, he says.
Jody Fledderman, Batesville Tool & Die’s president and CEO and Brett’s uncle, says the program in his community is possible because of the cooperation between the high school, the community college – Ivy Tech – and area manufacturers, including Batesville Casket Co., Heartwood Manufacturing Inc. and Virtus Inc. Students in the co-op program, who enter as juniors, split their weeks between classes at the high school and Ivy Tech and on-the-job at one of the four businesses.
Fledderman hopes students will graduate one semester short of an associate degree. The company hires some four-year graduates, but primarily is looking for workers with a technical associate degree and industrial skills.