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The “Skills Gap” is Often an “Opportunity Gap”

By Dave DeWitt, President – Phase65, Inc., Editor – ManufacturingStories®

First a Bit of History: I started ManufacturingStories® after I “retired” in 2012. For me, manufacturing was not a career choice as much as it was just part of growing up. My dad oversaw manufacturing for a toy company and from the time I was eight years old he often took me to work with him on Saturdays. My favorite job was inventorying the hardware for the machine shop. A massive wall of green metal drawers with dividers inside stored all of the nuts, bolts, screws and such. In the shop, the toolmakers built and maintained 100’s of metal stamping and forming die sets. They also made the custom machines and fixtures all designed by my dad. He served as manufacturing manager, controller, materials manager and the only engineer. He meticulously hand drew all of the drawings. Controls were all relays and switches housed in giant gray cabinets with wiring harnesses tucked into plastic raceways. I learned about Allen head bolts in every thread size and length before they let me use a pen instead of a pencil in school. I continued working at “The Shop” right through engineering college which fortunately was in the same town where we lived. After college, my career was spent working for large medical device companies and later running my own manufacturing business for 22 years.

What I learned in those early days watching my dad, observing the manufacturing process and ultimately working in a variety of production jobs served as a critical career foundation.

In today’s advanced manufacturing environment hands on opportunities like I was fortunate enough to have experienced are few and far between for young students. The “Skills Gap” is to some degree an “Opportunity Gap”. Modern manufacturing is done behind windowless walls often in clean rooms off limits to anyone other than employees. The opportunity for young students to experience the sights and sounds of the “shop floor” is often limited to 5 to 10-minute videos shown on a white board. The videos have a music track covering up the real sounds of running motors, the hiss of air cylinders, the clicking of switches and the like.

Today and the Future: So what can we as manufacturers do to provide young people with more realistic manufacturing experiences? Certainly Manufacturing Day events are a great step in the right direction. Bringing students, teachers, and career counselors into the real production environment helps to bridge the “awareness gap”.  Nationally Manufacturing Day events are promoted and cataloged at the MfgDay website. An ever growing number of industry partners and organizations sponsor the website.

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About the Author

Dave DeWitt, Editor & CEO
Phase65, Inc.
Dublin, NH 03444

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