If there is one thing IMPO readers are familiar with, it is the manufacturing skills gap and the need to find innovative ways to fill the two million jobs that Deloitte estimates will go unfilled over the next decade. There are several factors believed to be at play in the skills gap, including the retirement of highly-skilled workers who take much-needed knowledge with them. In turn, manufacturers must seek out workers with the advanced manufacturing skills needed for today's industry.

To address the skills gap, many industry leaders are taking matters into their own hands by providing apprentice programs or developing talent through education curriculums and training programs. Lincoln Electric is one of those companies. In a recent conversation, Jason Scales, manager of Education Solutions at Lincoln Electric, told me the company’s mission to foster welding education and professional development at its new Welding Technology & Training Center in Euclid, OH.

Scales said it’s not uncommon for industry to get involved in skilled trade education and cites trade schools that run Ford, Chrysler and BMW-focused curriculums. This sort of involvement allows students to be better prepared for the careers they will be entering into once done with school.

“I think it is a natural evolution for industry to get involved in education and training to develop those workers that will then go and perform those different trades or work for those companies,” Scales said. “The expectation of employees now is they will come in with a deeper level of knowledge and a higher proficiency of skills because the employer doesn’t have as much time to train so they expect employees to hit the ground running.”

Lincoln Electric utilizes blended welding education, which meshes hands-on welding with virtual reality, all in an effort to discover how to train welders better and how can they can develop skills faster. This is all an effort to give students a running start in whatever industry they end up in.

However, education that just focuses on the student is shortsighted. Another important aspect in training the next generation of workers is properly educating those training them, Scales said. Most welding instructors come from the industry.

While they know welding, they might not necessarily have a background in teaching. This is why part of the Lincoln Electric mission is to train the trainers and help them to be better teachers and more effective in the classroom.

“We have had a very effective welding training program for so many years,” Scales said. “We understand that if Lincoln, and the welding industry as a whole, is going to be viable long-term, we have to invest in education and move that needle along.”

You can learn more about Lincoln Electric’s education mission to address the skills gap and get an inside look at the company’s new Welding Technology & Training Center here