Saving Manufacturing: The Return of the Apprentice


Just about every time I peruse a manufacturing industry article or website it seems the topic of skilled labor shortage in US manufacturing comes up.  The problem is simple and stark.  We have roughly 600,000 too few skilled laborers for the trades (Business Week).  Combine this with the fact that the skilled workforce that exists is comprised of many nearing retirement age.  The math shakes out to a stark reality. Either manufacturing jobs cannot stay in the US at the clip of the past. Or, we need to reform our education system and motivate more young people to study manufacturing trades.

Companies today may be wise to study the apprenticeship programs of long past.  I have seem a superb example of this on the floor.  A cross training method to take less skilled workers and rotate them during down time through lathe, mill, assembly and other skilled aspects of machining and manufacturing.  I have also seen a trade program that partners with at risk high school students to introduce them to a trade. After all, a skilled machinist can earn a very respectable incomes that easily doubles or triples minimum wage. If we can do a better job of changing the perception young people have about manufacturing, we can bring a lot more good jobs back.

Perhaps the picture in this post is not just nostalgic old school America.  Perhaps, with a little investment in training and development and our American workers, this can become the new face of American manufacturing.



Picture By Wmpearl (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia


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