Dealing with the skills problem

A skilled workforce is one of the biggest problems facing plant engineers -- if not the biggest. It has been a problem for many years, and it will continue to be a problem. Consider, for example, that the U.S.

07/01/1999


A skilled workforce is one of the biggest problems facing plant engineers -- if not the biggest. It has been a problem for many years, and it will continue to be a problem.

Consider, for example, that the U.S. economy is growing faster than the population. Result: a shortage of skilled workers. Consider, too, that the nonmanufacturing sector of our economy is growing faster than the manufacturing sector. Result: A shortage of skilled workers in manufacturing. And how about this: Everyone who will enter the workforce in the next couple of decades is already alive.

Of course, the problem is qualitative as well as quantitative. The gap between skills available and skills needed is growing. While the required knowledge base is expanding, education in the basics is shrinking. Our high schools, for example, are dropping shop and mechanical arts courses like they were hot biscuits. Lack of student interest is a big factor. One study says that in 1982 almost 15% of high school graduates had taken three or more trade or industry-related courses. By 1994, that percentage dropped to less than 9%.

Our research confirms the problem. About 75% of our readers say they are becoming more involved with training, education, and skills development. And "skills of the workforce" is at the top of the list of challenges in plant engineering.

Fortunately, there are a few encouraging signs providing at least a glow, if not a light, at the end of the tunnel.

One such glow is the growing initiative to establish skill standards for manufacturing workers. It's called the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC), and it currently involves about 175 companies, associations, unions, and educational institutions. Mission of the MSSC is to develop a nationwide system of workforce skill standards for manufacturing and related installation and repair workers. By establishing national skill standards, this group expects to enhance industrial productivity and competitiveness, guide education and training goals, and support workers' careers and opportunities.

MSSC has achieved recognition by the National Skill Standards Board. More information is available online at www.msscusa.org.

Another promising effort at skill development is the National Association of Manufacturers Virtual University. Through this internet service, NAM member companies can access online courses in basic skills. If your company belongs to NAM, check it out at www.namvu.com.





No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
Robotic safety, collaboration, standards; DCS migration tips; IT/OT convergence; 2017 Control Engineering Salary and Career Survey
Integrated mobility; Artificial intelligence; Predictive motion control; Sensors and control system inputs; Asset Management; Cybersecurity
Big Data and IIoT value; Monitoring Big Data; Robotics safety standards and programming; Learning about PID
Featured articles highlight technologies that enable the Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies to get data more easily to the user.
This article collection contains several articles on how automation and controls are helping human-machine interface (HMI) hardware and software advance.
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Mobility as the means to offshore innovation; Preventing another Deepwater Horizon; ROVs as subsea robots; SCADA and the radio spectrum
Future of oil and gas projects; Reservoir models; The importance of SCADA to oil and gas
Big Data and bigger solutions; Tablet technologies; SCADA developments
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me