The u.s. manufacturing workforce is aging rapidly, with half of the existing workforce only 10-15 years away from retirement. Yet,american manufacturing employers are struggling to build a pipeline of new workers. Some 600,000 positions are currently unfilled, and more than three million additional positions are due to open by 2020.
Meanwhile, the youth unemployment rate remains above 16%, with nearly four million 16-24 year olds looking for but unable to find work. Why does this gap continue to exist across many regions, and what challenges are preventing the U.S. education and workforce training systems from addressing these issues? How can manufacturing employers and workforce development practitioners most effectively invest in youth in their regions, so that more young people are aware of, interested in, and on the path to careers in manufacturing?
Hope Street Group and Alcoa Foundation set out to address these questions. In this report, we frame the systemic challenges that currently discourage able young people from entering manufacturing career tracks. To do so, we interviewed a select group of American manufacturing employers, high school and college-aged youth, education professionals, and nonprofit organizers. Below, we share their stories and synthesize them into common themes, supported by secondary research.
We also propose potential solutions to these challenges, with examples of promising practices already being implemented, which reformers can choose to flesh out and implement in their regions.
We focus on two key stages in a young person’s career journey: 1) Career Exploration, the process of exploring and understanding the range of potential career options available, and 2) “Skilling Up,” the process of earning the skills and experiences necessary to be ready for entry-level jobs. Our findings are as follows:
In this section, we discuss why young people receive the majority of their career information through day-to-day interactions with adults, primarily their parents, family members, or media role models. Through this process, we learned that manufacturing has very low visibility among youth, and what information they do hear tends to be outdated, or framed in language that is not designed to appeal to their interests and passions.
Although career and technical education programs used to be important vehicles for introducing youth to technical careers, such programs are on the decline across the nation. In fact,the majority of schools place little emphasis on career education at all. As a result, relatively few youth seriously consider manufacturing during their career exploration process.
Educators also face a number of challenges. Teachers do not have incentives to cover career education in the classroom, and must prioritize a host of other district and state requirements. Many regions rely on career and education counselors to provide career education, but these counselors have very limited capacity to provide attention to all students, and often focus on academic requirements and post-secondary education rather than careers. Finally, many educators remain hesitant to recommend non-four year degree options, as the value proposition of alternative credentials are less clear to them than a “traditional” bachelor’s degree.
In this section, we examine why many regions do not offer enough training opportunities to meet employer demand for skilled manufacturing workers. We identify three primary barriers. First, educators and employers face significant financial barriers to building and maintaining training and education programs. Second, numerous communication barriers prevent regional alignment on needed skills and appropriate curricula. Finally, we note a lack of easily understandable, up-to-date, and region-specific information on manufacturing career pathways.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Missing Makers: How to Rebuild America’s Manufacturing Workforce