Every manufacturing study I've read in the past five years, at least, has cited a growing skills gap as the biggest challenge to U.S. manufacturers. On June 24, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced major milestones in the continuing effort to expand apprenticeships in the United States. A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) was made public that would establish a process for the U.S. DOL to advance the development of high-quality, industry-recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAPs). These guidelines will move toward finalizing President Trump’s goal of getting the DOL out of the day-to-day management of these programs.
All I can say is, it’s about time!
Under the proposed rule, entities such as trade, industry and employer groups or associations, educational institutions, state and local government entities, non-profit organizations, unions, or a consortium or partnership of these entities could become a Standards Recognition Entity (SRE) that sets standards for training, structure and curricula for IRAPs in relevant industries or occupational areas. The SREs would be recognized through the U.S. DOL to ensure that its requirements are met, resulting in only high-quality IRAPs.
Additionally, the department announced awards totaling $183.8 million to support the development and expansion of apprenticeships for educational institutions partnering with companies that provide a funding match component. The DOL also will make available an additional $100 million for efforts to expand apprenticeships and close the skills gap.
Whenever the government gets involved in anything it usually runs off the rails at some point with a lot of money thrown down a rat hole! I’ve long said that industry knows what it needs in the way of skills training, therefore industry—not the government—should work hand-in-hand with local community colleges and trade schools to create a program that works for both employer and employee.
Injection molders have developed successful training programs
Few of these government programs that I’ve seen created over the years have worked in any meaningful way. With the deepening of the skills gap, many employers in the plastics processing and mold manufacturing industries have established their own training, education and apprenticeship programs. I’ve written many articles about these successful programs and how plastics processors are growing their own skilled workers in-house. Many of these companies already work with local community colleges and trade schools to help develop the right curricula for the various skills and knowledge required by plastics processors.
Some of the companies whose training and education programs I’ve covered in PlasticsToday include GW Plastics (Bethel, VT); Plastic Molding Technology (El Paso, TX); Micro Mold and Plastikos in Erie, PA; and many others. If you want to see how custom molder Plastikos developed its program, read "Closing the Skills Gap: How Plastikos meets recruiting, retention challenges."
While the government will still have its hand in the program, giving companies a greater ability to work with local educational institutions and trade associations is a step in the right direction. With the “funding match component” of the program, employers will have an opportunity to develop more skilled employees while sharing costs.
The National Tooling & Machining Association (NTMA) and the Precision Metalforming Association (PMA) applauded Monday’s announcement. “There will be an estimated two million vacant manufacturing jobs by 2025 and the industry cannot close this gap on its own,” said PMA President David Klotz. “The federal programs announced [June 24] mean that the government is listening to our message that, for manufacturing to continue to drive the U.S. economy, this country must invest in helping manufacturers attract and train the next generation of workers. We encourage Congress to provide funding to expand these types of programs.”