Training Workforce

Future Skilled Workers are In School Now

Gary Parr | December 19, 2017

Supporting K-12 vocational and STEM programs builds a foundation for developing future skilled workers.
Supporting K-12 vocational and STEM programs builds a foundation for developing future skilled workers.

The skilled-worker shortage is so prevalent that it even comes up in social conversation.

At a recent social gathering, I spoke with a friend who is involved in union-member support and training for a non-manufacturing trade. We were talking in general about our respective jobs and I mentioned this month’s Industry Views feature. I asked if he was experiencing the same problem.

His answer was an unequivocal yes. He then followed up with stories about how the union has offered significant incentives to entice people to enter training programs, made adjustments to provide easier access to training/certification, and ultimately struggled to fill large numbers of positions with qualified workers. Success has been limited, and he doesn’t see any near-term solutions other than to keep banging away at the problem.

We agreed that education is a key catalyst, something that is supported by the responses I received to this month’s “Filling the Skills Gap” question. We need to change the “everyone-goes-to-college” mindset and begin demonstrating to students early on (middle school seems to be a good starting point) that not everyone must go to college and, with the proper training, there are plenty of lifelong-    career jobs, with good pay and benefits, available essentially immediately upon certification.

This type of education outreach cannot start and stop with students. We need to demonstrate to parents that it’s not embarrassing to answer the standard question, “Where’s Betty going to college?” by helping them understand that when a child successfully completes a vocational-training/trade-school program, he/she will likely entertain multiple job offers.

We also need to support educators by providing them with what they need to help students understand that a 4-yr. degree is no longer the only path to a rewarding career. Many other paths are just as good and, for many students, may be better choices.

Several respondents to this month’s workforce-development question have integrated K-12 support into their skills-gap and/or STEM efforts. Patti Yocius, director of STEM Education Development at Festo Didactic Inc. ( Eatontown, NJ), described her company’s approach this way: “We recognize that teachers often have limited STEM content knowledge and are not familiar with applying the engineering design process, which is why we developed a turn-key solution for secondary schools that ensures both student and teacher are on a path toward success. Our Integrative STEM program puts students in control of their own learning so they become better problem solvers and are better prepared for the workforce. Students become active learners, using hands-on equipment that encourages problem solving, collaboration, teamwork, and critical thinking—all skills essential to any industry.”

I hope your organization is actively working to fill the skills gap, not just internally, but by working with others in your community and supporting educators. A good way to kick-start your efforts is to participate in career-day activities at your local schools and help students develop a new vision of what could lie ahead. EP




Gary Parr

Gary Parr

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