As manufacturing processes become more automated, it is essential for companies to invest in partnerships with local technical schools to maintain a qualified, knowledgeable workforce.
In June 2011, President Obama launched a national effort to revitalize American manufacturing. This private-sector-led initiative, known as the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP), was designed to “bring together industry, universities and the federal government to chart a course for investing and furthering the development of emerging technologies that will create high quality manufacturing jobs and enhance U.S. global competitiveness.”
An AMP Steering Committee was appointed, and in July 2012, the Committee issued a report with 16 recommendations to help AMP attain its mission. The report included five “workstreams,” or focus areas, each of which the Committee assessed and then made recommendations for improvement. These worksteams included:
- Technology Development
- Shared Infrastructure and Facilities
- Education and Workforce Development
Of these workstreams, Education and Workforce Development could be one of the most important to maintaining and improving the U.S. manufacturing industry. One of today’s top concerns in the industry is the “skills gap.” With an aging workforce — and an increasing level of automated equipment — manufacturers are facing a shortage of workers with the technological skills needed to operate advanced machinery.
It is crucial for the industry to partner with local schools in order to develop effective technical programs that ensure students obtain the level of education needed to enter into a successful manufacturing career. Included in the Steering Committee’s Education and Workforce Development report is a recommendation to “develop location-specific curricula to meet the needs of local and regional manufacturers.”
While the AMP continues to work on improving the industry on a national level, some areas of the U.S. are taking the initiative to improve manufacturer-school partnerships on a regional scale. The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, a regional economic development team which works with businesses interested in locating to its 10-county region, has developed a number of initiatives designed to develop skilled talent for the manufacturing sector.