What’s Happening in Workforce Development—and What You Can Do

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  • April 14th, 2017
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What’s Happening in Workforce Development—and What You Can Do

Over the last several years, a Perfect Storm has been swelling in regards to re-valuing the inclusion of skilled trades in public schools.  While change doesn’t come easy, educational institutions have been advancing in a direction of re-instating hands-on classes and touting them as critical to a comprehensive curriculum as well as to a country that direly needs to grow its manufacturing base.

That message has been heard in Washington as more and more Congressional members heard from constituents that their businesses were suffering from a lack of trained employees and have been responding with the creation of legislation to benefit Career Technical Education, Apprenticeships and other skill-based training.

The third leg of the stool must be the efforts on the part of industry. What is our industry doing to make its voice heard?

A number of trade associations that have a history of calling on legislators in Washington are now making Career Technical Education (CTE) a top priority. In addition to AWFS, such groups include Woodworking Machinery Industry Association (WMIA), Wood Machinery Manufacturers of America (WMMA), Wood Component Manufacturers Association (WCMA) and the Hardwood Federation. These groups are making treks to Capitol Hill to advance legislation that will ultimately serve you by developing the next generation of skilled workers.

Also, the Woodwork Career Alliance (WCA) has created the Wood Manufacturing Skill Standards for our industry. The standards include over 100 tool and machine tests recognized by industry to assist in determining the skill level of new or existing employees; they are also being integrated into the curriculum of wood programs in the schools. WCA had the forethought to design a high school level proficiency test that leads to a “Sawblade Certificate.” As schools look to reinvigorate CTE programs, they are particularly interested in offering industry certifications that students can complete before they graduate, to enhance their job marketability. Check out www.woodworkcareer.org.

Efforts to interest the younger generation in careers in manufacturing must also come from you, the suppliers, manufacturers, distributors and others whose companies will be able to grow successfully in the coming decades if there is a pool of applicants to draw from.

Confucius said that a journey begins with the first step. Which of these will be yours?

  • Don’t underestimate the power of making your voice heard at the local level. Develop a relationship with your representatives and don’t be shy about letting them know what your company contributes to the local economy in the way of jobs and projects, and supply them with a clear “ask” in terms of supporting Career Technical Education in the schools. Share any positive relations you have with schools as well as your needs when it comes to filling positions. To find your representatives, go to House.gov and www.Senate.gov.
  • Get acquainted with SkillsUSA, arguably the nation’s largest CTE organization for teachers and students (over 300,000 members), whose soft and hard skill training of students in dozens of industry-related sectors in every state in the country is second to none. SkillsUSA.org
  • Partner up with a local high school, community college or technical school to lend expertise, guidance in curriculum development, internships, or invite a teacher in during the summer for a crash course in industry-related training and technology that they can bring back to the classroom. Or get involved with the National Training Center currently underway in Colorado Springs – the brainchild of woodworking instructor Dean Mattson. Stiles Machinery is playing a large role in outfitting the new center with equipment; many other companies are also contributing to its start-up which is scheduled for August 2017. Contact Tim Kistler at kistler@peyton.k12.co.us or Dean Mattson at dean@mattsonsinteriors.com for information.
  • Contribute to the Association for Career and Technical Education’s (ACTE) Industry Connect blog, an opportunity to increase educator interest in collaborating with business and industry by sharing information, news and activities that highlight the connection between CTE and employers. The blog is accessed by close to 30,000 CTE teachers and administrators. To participate, contact Kevin Oshinskie at koshinskie@acteonline.org.
  • Create a staff team to brainstorm ideas on how to re-energize interest in manufacturing careers in your community. Invite students, parents and career counselors in to visit your facility which can be anytime or specifically on Manufacturing Day, the first Friday in October, sponsored by the National Association of Manufacturers and others. Check out MfgDay.com.

This is an all hands on deck situation. Get involved. Get excited. Share your energy with the next guy. Let us know your stories. You can send them to adria@awfs.org.