For companies that are having trouble filling blue-collar jobs, effective training programs appear to need coordination with local industries in order to work.
An article last week in the New York Times Magazine lays out a picture familiar to the boating industry — a population of under- and unemployed working-class adults for whom well-paying work seems increasingly out of reach — versus boat manufacturers and dealers, who say they can’t find good people to fill the thousands of open jobs they have.
The article explores how job-training programs can effectively bridge the gap with a mix of labor, industry and government coordination.
A 2015 report from the Manufacturing Institute found that seven in 10 manufacturing executives said they faced shortages of workers with adequate tech skills. A high proportion of existing skilled workers is also nearing retirement, which means a bigger gap is looming soon.
By 2025, the report warned, 2 million jobs will be going unfilled.
A program in advanced composites manufacturing at Great Bay Community College in Rochester, N.H., operates out of a satellite campus that opened in 2013, with aid from a Labor Department grant meant to help community colleges reach “trade-displaced” workers who need help training for new careers, according to the article.
Great Bay’s composites program was developed in a close relationship with Safran Aerospace Composites and Albany Engineered Composites — two companies that opened a shared plant in Rochester in 2014.
Safran helped develop the program’s curriculum and stays in touch about which specializations the company will need in the coming months.
It guarantees interviews to all graduates of the program and has hired about 30 of the more than 170 participants so far. Overall, more than half of the program’s graduates have been hired by five large local manufacturers.
That level of coordination with local industry, ideally touching on everything from curriculum to recruitment, is now seen by policy experts as a crucial dividing line between programs that work and those that don’t.
The federal government now emphasizes this kind of “demand-driven” training, in part to ensure that workers aren’t being retrained with new skills as obsolete as their old ones.
“A good sign is if the program was co-developed with the firm,” Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, told the publication. “One of the fundamental problems is training divorced from labor-market dynamics — people being trained without the presence of jobs they could actually arrive in.”