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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.