Training Workforce

Industry Views: Filling the Skills Gap

Gary Parr | December 19, 2017

News and developments on all things in the predictive, preventive and manufacturing space.

Leading companies across the country are working at all levels to develop skilled workers who can meet current and future needs.

Anyone who is in need of skilled workers can tell you that the skills gap is very real and the chances of it getting “filled” in the next handful of years are slim. Research supports real-world experience. According to the most recent report, “The Skills Gap in U.S. Manufacturing 2015 and Beyond,” from Deloitte Development LLC (, Oakland, CA) and the Manufacturing Institute (, Washington):

• In the next decade, nearly 3.5-million manufacturing jobs will be available and, as a result of the skills gap, 2 million will go unfilled.

• In addition to baby-boomer retirements and economic expansion, other factors contribute to the shortage of skilled workforce, including loss of embedded knowledge due to movement of experienced workers, a negative image of the manufacturing industry among younger generations, lack of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills among workers, and a gradual decline of technical-education programs in public high schools.

• Some 82% of executive respondents to the survey indicate they believe the skills gap will have an impact on their ability to meet customer demand.

• In addition, 78% of those respondents believe the skills gap will have a negative impact on their ability to implement new technologies and increase productivity.

The numbers go on and on, adding additional details to the same picture. After you digest the reality, the inevitable question arises: “What’s being done to correct the problem?” This month, to get a sense of what leading manufacturers are doing, we asked the question: “What role is your company playing in the effort to fill the skills gap by developing skilled workers and/or supporting STEM programs?” The answers suggest that considerable resources are being invested at all levels to build a future workforce.

1712fviewsscheuPre-K to Post-Doc

Greg Scheu, president, Americas Region, ABB, Cary, NC,

ABB has developed a “pre-K to post-doc” strategy to support STEM education at all levels. We’ve supported STEM programs in middle schools, provided robotics and other technology to technical colleges, and funded undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships at leading research universities. We also are the sole sponsor behind “Kid Grid,” an interactive play exhibit at Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh, NC, that teaches children where energy comes from and how the power grid works.

ABB also invests in workforce training within our own operations. Often in our manufacturing facilities, the management team includes people who joined the company working on the shop floor. They trained on different types of equipment, gained experience in a variety of roles and, in many cases, earned their bachelor’s and/or master’s degree(s) through our tuition-reimbursement program. This is all by design. It pays great dividends to the individuals, but also to the company, especially as the competition for top talent continues to increase.

Currently, we’re developing a more robust program for worker training—and re-training—that’s focused specifically on advanced manufacturing to prepare our existing and future workforce for Industry 4.0. I expect that a strong focus on STEM education and training will remain a key part of our success going forward.

1712fviewsluceyEducating with PTUs

Todd Lucey, general manager, Endress+Hauser Inc., Greenwood, IN,

Endress+Hauser has 10 Process Training Units (PTU) in various locations throughout the U.S. The PTUs have more than 120 Endress+Hauser instruments installed to measure flow, level, pressure, temperature—along with various analytical parameters. Customers, students, and employees can use the PTUs for hands-on training, learning experiences, and field trips. Recently, Endress+Hauser began providing educational training to military veterans at no cost.

We have also developed a Rotational Development Program for college graduates who have recent degrees in STEM fields. Once accepted in the program, graduates spend eight months training on all instrumentation lines, which allows us to fill positions immediately, ensuring top-level customer support.

At our Greenwood, IN, headquarters, we host an annual Community Career+Education Forum. The forum connects middle school students, parents, and educators to raise awareness and provide information about technical careers, opportunities, and the importance of STEM-related programs. Endress+Hauser and the supporting organizations remain engaged annually to develop and guide the next generation of engineers and other process-automation professionals to career opportunities in STEM fields. The participating schools receive classroom grants, along with a wealth of information about future career opportunities.

1712fviewswenzelCraft-Training Program

Rendela K. Wenzel, CMRP, associate senior consultant engineer, Global Plant Engineering, Maintenance, and Reliability, Eli Lilly and Co., Indianapolis,

At Lilly, we have developed a strategic craft-training program that takes 18 months to 2 years to complete. As the older workforce retires, we have to be able to find new talent and close the gap. Management is supportive of this effort and Lilly will train candidates and help them gain experience while they attend school. The program is responsible for hiring 24 trainees, to date, and has made it possible to place 18 of them in full-time positions within Lilly maintenance groups. The remaining six trainees are still in the initial stage of the program. The training also uses basic maintenance programs provided by our tier-one vendors. In 2016, there were more than 30 well-attended training classes focused on equipment used at Lilly. Lilly wants the training to be relevant to what the maintenance techs perform on a daily basis.

1712fviewstranterPower of E-Learning

Jason Tranter, CEO and founder, Mobius Institute, Bainbridge Island, WA,

In an ideal world, we could buy instrumentation and software and the reliability problem would be solved. Sadly, reality says that reliability starts with culture (the desire to maintain, monitor, and operate with precision) and skill (the ability to maintain, monitor, and operate with precision). Effective training contributes greatly to culture and is essential to building the necessary knowledge and skills. But common training mistakes include one-off training events and one-size-fits-all training.

That is why e-learning and blended learning are so effective. In standard classroom training, we get two to four days to transform student knowledge and skills. But that is never enough. It is too steep a jump up the learning curve and it is too hard to remember everything you were taught. By utilizing self-paced, highly animated/interactive e-learning, a person can prepare before a course and go on learning long after the course. Pure e-learning can be geared to a person’s needs; the same topic can be covered at different levels of detail. Best of all, training can be delivered to everyone, very cost- effectively, exactly when the person needs it.

One final component of training is the ability to be recognized for your knowledge and skills. Certification is a key ingredient as it not only demonstrates that a person has achieved the desired level, it also creates demand to be trained in the first place.

1712fviewsgraffCollaborative Career-Based Approach

Bob Graff, senior manager for education, Yaskawa America Inc., Motoman Robotics Div., Miamisburg, OH,

Every day, I talk to educational leaders, policy makers, and industrial managers who want to partner with Yaskawa Motoman because manufacturing cannot realize change and embrace advanced technologies without a supportive, collaborative education system. Education is the key that defines our success as a nation, and America’s economic growth and workforce development depend on aligning STEM curricula with industry standards, providing a career-based approach that prepares students to be job-ready on the day they enter the workforce.

Many students exit high school or college unprepared, leaving educators and manufacturers with the daunting task of creating effective STEM education, career pathways, and training programs. Solving the skills gap for robotic automation and advanced manufacturing will require companies to create workforce-driven partnerships and find unique methods for developing the talent needed to meet customer demand.

Yaskawa Motoman is committed to addressing critical workforce needs with innovative hardware, software tools, dedicated curricula, industry-recognized certification, and applicable services to deliver real-world automation experiences in a classroom environment. With the help of educational organizations and collaborative partnerships, Yaskawa Motoman creates dynamic workforce models and STEM education opportunities to support job creation and enhance manufacturing capabilities that propel economic growth.

Using Millennial Technology Affinity

Toffee Coleman, education marketing manager, Fluke Corp., Everett, WA,

Most millennials have a great affinity for technology. They grew up or were teenagers with a smartphone or tablet in their hands. New technology from Fluke gives them the same flexibility and allows them to conduct their work with the same technology, including cloud-based apps, data analysis, and computerized maintenance management software (CMMS). The system connects handheld tools, semi-fixed wireless sensors, SCADA data, and any other third-party data in one system, accessible from any connected device.

Industry and the maintenance tool market is shifting away from the solo-fixer mentality to a more team-oriented, condition-based maintenance approach. That includes inspection routes for determining equipment health and more screening checks, as well as monitoring of key-indicator data. This shift provides green entrants with assistance and knowledge as the older generation exits but does not eliminate the need for the experienced technicians and managers to train and mentor this younger group. The technology helps make that process smoother.

Fluke is addressing these industry trends by providing all workers with tools and services that simplify complex workflows across the plant floor. We run a student contest around our Accelix platform of connected tools, sensors, and CMMS software. We also support the World Skills International program, which helps STEM students around the globe build practical vocational skills and experience.

1712fviewshayftThree-Pronged Approach

Kara Hayft, vice president, Human Resources, Uponor North America, Apple Valley, MN,

At Uponor, we are tackling the skilled-  labor shortage issue head on, recruiting women, training apprentices, and building a talent pipeline with students. Women account for half of the U.S. labor force, but a significantly lower number work in manufacturing. In 2015, we formed an internal task force to improve recruiting, reduce physical barriers that precluded women from safely working in our plant, and enhance our referral package. This resulted in more employees recommending females for these head-of-household jobs. In 2014, two females worked in manufacturing position. Today, 30 women (of 340 jobs) work in our plant.

Also, Uponor was recently accepted into the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry’s registered apprenticeship program. Our 3-yr., 6,000-hr. program includes job-related technical instruction and hands-on learning. Participants will earn PMMI Level 2 certification, Journeyman status, or a Maintenance Electrical license.

We also are one of six Minnesota businesses that participate in a federally funded STEM mentoring and internship program for local high schools. In addition, each year, we invite local students to attend our Uponor Training Academy to possibly earn an internship or summer job.

1712fviewsbeatonPartnering with Educators

Amanda Beaton, program manager, Siemens Cooperates with Education, Atlanta,

Siemens is committed to working with schools and students to grow the pool of STEM talent and provide the skilled workforce that manufacturing needs. Through our Siemens Cooperates with Education program, we are building a pipeline of talent with a ready understanding of Siemens technology for our customers and partners. This includes equipping students and teachers with practical components from our digital enterprise portfolio for industry to embrace the promise of digitalization.

Hundreds of K-12 schools, community colleges, universities, and other nonprofit training centers have opportunities to partner with Siemens on leading-edge technologies in their classrooms, research projects, and workforce-development programs. We support them with equipment, software, instructor training, and technical guidance.

Students have access to the same technologies used by our industrial customers all over the world. Siemens also supports teachers with free training and curriculum resources.

The results of these partnerships are numerous and include a disabled soldier who recently returned to school to earn a mechatronics certification. Another is a student team from rural Georgia that participated in the WorldSkills Championships of Mechatronics in Abu Dhabi in October 2017. Also, one of Siemens Cooperates with Education partner schools had a female representative on the mechatronics team at the national championships. Only through these kinds of close partnerships between industry and education will we tackle the skills gap and invest in student success in STEM programs. For more about the program, click here.

1712fviewsnyquistSupporting STEM and GirlStart

Jim Nyquist, group president, Emerson Automation Solutions, Houston,

As an industry, it’s imperative that we encourage children to pursue studies in science, technology, engineering, and math. STEM careers are growing at a much faster rate (24% versus 4% in the past decade) and provide tremendous opportunities for the coming generations. STEM concepts are relatively language agnostic—which means students across the world can participate, regardless of language or geographic location. Each day I’m inspired by the enthusiasm at Emerson for STEM. In 2017, Emerson hosted more than 1,000 students for I Love STEM Days in offices from Texas to the Philippines and from Florida to Brazil.

#ILoveSTEM Day encourages kindergarten through eighth-grade students to flex their STEM muscles with hands-on technology and engineering-focused activities that are designed to help them understand the scientific concepts they encounter every day. Emerson also partners with organizations such as GirlStart (Austin, TX, where our employees act as coaches and mentors. By learning about STEM concepts from geometry to electrochemistry to the fundamentals of force and motion early and in a kid-friendly and memorable way, children develop a sense of curiosity and start asking the “why” and “how” questions that can often lead them to pursue STEM studies.

1712fviewshamiltonThree Paths to Skilled Workers

Billy Hamilton, senior vice president of Human Resources, Motion Industries Inc., Birmingham, AL,

The skills gap created by the slow decline of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) graduates in the United States is a threat and an opportunity for Motion Industries in the marketplace. We are addressing the skills gap along three different paths: external training, internal training, and philanthropic STEM activities.

Our Learning and Development team travel to numerous customers every year, providing highly technical skills-based training to the plant-maintenance departments. The subjects of these classes are usually hydraulics, pneumatics, bearings, or power transmission applications. The classes are not product-specific, as we are working to improve the audience skill set to make them more effective at their positions.

The Learning and Development team also hosts similar classes for our employees. We have 22 learning centers around the country where we conduct most of these classes. Virtually all of our employees are within a half-day drive of one of our training centers.

Last, but certainly not least, is our philanthropic donations of time and money to high school and technical school STEM programs across the country. In some cases, we partner with customers, such as Frito-Lay, to assist schools in program development. It is critical to our economy to graduate more students with STEM skills.

Patti_Yocius_240_288Turnkey Solution for Secondary Schools

Patti Yocius, director of STEM Education Development, Festo Didactic Inc., Eatontown, NJ,

Critical thinking, problem solving, communication, and collaboration–many of the skills our future generation must attain to be prepared, not only for our ever-changing technological world, but for 21st century careers and global citizenship. STEM literacy, which has an impact on individual ability to contribute to the economic success of the national and global economy, is achieved when a student can identify and apply concepts and content from science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to understand and solve problems that cannot be resolved by any one disciplinary approach. Unfortunately, this integrative approach to STEM education is not standard and high school students are graduating unprepared and not technologically literate.

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 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.




Gary Parr

Gary Parr

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