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Are Apprenticeships the Answer to the Manufacturing Skills Gap?


Now that the inauguration is upon us, it will be interesting to see what form the campaign promises will take. A recent article in the Washington Post clarified what many working and hiring in the manufacturing industry already know. The manufacturing jobs referenced by the political candidates are in many ways relics of the past manufacturing era. These are largely categorized as blue collar-jobs not requiring specialized tech skills.

Manufacturing is Tech-Enabled

The need for high-tech, advanced skills is a cornerstone of the new era of manufacturing employment. Modern factory jobs include the use of robots and lasers making each manufacturer a software company in its own right. These jobs are difficult to fill because many schools and training centers are not yet equipped or ready to offer this level of training, creating the reality of the skills gap for manufacturers across the U.S.

Trying Out Apprenticeships

In response, a growing number of companies who have specific hiring needs are looking at the creation of their own apprenticeship programs. Much like a sporting team that begins recruitment and skill growth at an early age, manufacturing is looking for its future workforce as early as high school. In a variety of work-study programs, students have the ability to combine traditional high school studies with work at a company during the school day or directly after school.

While the idea of apprenticeships is not a new concept, its use largely fell out of favor with the decrease of manufacturing jobs overall. Global companies, many of them with a long tradition of apprenticeships in their native countries, are looking to revive the concept in the U.S. as they look to fill a growing number of tech-related manufacturing jobs.

Creating a New Path

The revitalization of apprenticeships offers students another option when it comes to continuing education. One of the best things about this old-is-new option is that it often comes with the bonus of having a job waiting after completion. The other bonus is that the apprenticeship option usually comes with less of the debt advanced university education can carry with no guarantee of work after graduation.

Changing Mindset Required

For now, one of the biggest lies may be that the path to success must include university education. For a growing number of high school graduates the idea of more time in school is less than desirable. Instead of trying to pigeonhole current and future generations into a tried-and-true that doesn’t always work, wouldn’t it be more effective to explore solutions that could benefit both the individual and the manufacturing industry as a whole? Only time will tell…


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