Plenty of Skills Gap Fillers
Gary Parr | February 16, 2018
My first exposure to skills-gap-filling programs was 16 years ago when I was teaching high-school science at a very small school in northern Illinois. The closest the vast majority of students at that school were ever going to get to a college was watching Saturday football on TV. Fortunately, years before I arrived, an educator saw the same thing and partnered the school with a nearby community college that offered a significant skills/technical training program for high-school students. The “skills gap” we address today was not an issue then, but the student need for skills in that community could have easily been described as critical.
Students in the program would begin and end their days with core courses (science, math, English). About mid-morning, they would fill up a couple of busses and head to the community college where they would learn building construction, welding, electronics, and other skills. They would return late afternoon for another core course, then head home for the day.
For many, I think I can safely say, the program was a lifesaver. Without those skills, their futures were not very bright. I’ll never forget one young man who struggled with “book learning,” and found it extremely difficult to sit still in my science class. He was a good kid, and I’m confident is a good man today, but simply wasn’t wired to sit in a classroom. Yet he couldn’t wait to get on that bus each morning. His efforts earned him a summer job at a local metalworking business and, upon graduation from high school, when most were wondering about their futures, that summer job became a full-time position. I still carry the memory of his proud face when he told me about the job. One student saved.
Since our December “Industry Views” article that illustrated what several companies are doing to fill the skills gap, I’ve become aware of many other programs that are making a difference for people young and old. For example, visit efficientplantmag.com/1801uponor to hear my podcast discussion with Bill Gray, president of Uponor North America (Apple Valley, MN, uponor.com), about the three-pronged approach they are using to develop skilled workers.
Recently, I came across an article on al.com by Shelly Haskins about the KTECH school, which is part of the Kids to Love program located in Madison, AL (kidstolove.org). Former foster child Lee Marshall started The Kids to Love Foundation to care for foster children. According to Haskins, Marshall worried about the futures of the children in her care. After some fundraising and generous philanthropic contributions, Marshall started the KTECH school as an effort to provide foster children with employable skills and keep them out of prison.
The mechatronics program is managed today by Dorothy Havens and, in its two years, has graduated 29 students ranging from 18 to 42 years of age. The program offers 16-week and 6-month paths and is open to youth, military veterans, homeless adults, and anyone else who needs a helping hand. Upon completion, students are skilled enough at mechanical, electrical, and computerized technologies to take the Siemens Certification exam. Some 93% have earned certification.
It’s programs such as these that tell me the skills gap may not be closing quickly, but it’s closing. EP