Vocational training to build the next generation of workers

Manufacturers are currently experiencing a skilled labour shortage, and the skills gap is expected to continue growing. In fact, there is so much demand for industrial workers that if positions aren’t filled, it could cost $1 trillion in lost productivity by 2030.

Master Fluid Solutions is a globally recognised metalworking fluids manufacturer specialising in eco-friendly, durable and stable cutting and grinding fluids, straight oils, parts cleaners, pipe and tube expanding, forming, and corrosion control fluids. With over 70 years of innovation and service in the industry, the company is devoted to improving performance and lowering customers’ total operating costs. Master Fluid Solutions is proud to have been named in the Top 10 in “Top Workplaces” in the Toledo, OH, area for seven consecutive years.

Companies across the manufacturing sector play an important role in supporting vocational programs and empowering the next generation of workers, but this goes beyond community service. Manufacturers and the skilled trade industries stand to gain from any investments they make in education and training. Employees who have completed vocational training onboard quicker and reach optimal productivity with less time on the job.

The broad view of vocational training

Vocational training refers to any type of instructional classes or programs that teach the skills needed to succeed in a particular occupation or trade. These classes provide hands-on, job-specific education and training. Some offer certificates, diplomas, and even associate-level degrees upon completion.

Vocational training can occur through many types of channels. Some of the most common are:

  • High school career and technical education (CTE) programmes. These programmes usually involve taking career- or industry-specific courses in high school that help them prepare for careers in the skilled trades industries.
  • Trade and technical schools. These types of institutions offer two-year programmes to high school graduates that prepare students for particular jobs or careers. After completing their education, students can earn a certificate, diploma, or even associate’s degree.
  • Apprenticeship programmes. The structure and duration of these programs vary widely but most often involve actual on-the-job training. Students work under the direct supervision of another skilled worker to learn a craft or trade.

How manufacturers can support vocational training

After the global supply chain disruption, many experts are looking for ways to reshore manufacturing and minimise the risk of future delays. This will create an even greater demand for skilled workers.

There’s already been considerable effort in the media to rehabilitate the image of vocational training, especially in the face of the national labour shortage. Recently, California poured a $200m investment into creating and promoting vocational training programs throughout the state. But successfully creating change must come from all directions, including manufacturers themselves.

Here’s how to help:

Sponsor existing programmes

Manufacturers should build relationships with trade, vocational, and technical schools in the community – especially when they offer programmes relevant to the manufacturers’ industry or needs. Many community colleges offer some vocational courses and programmes as part of their curriculum, as well. All of these organisations need funding to thrive, and any donations manufacturers make will support the growth of a skilled workforce. In addition, manufacturers can directly support future workers by providing scholarships.

Provide resources

In lieu of actual funding, manufacturers can also support vocational training by donating time and resources. CNC and metalworking training programmes especially benefit from materials like cutting tools and coolant. But contributions don’t need to be limited to products. Manufacturers employ some of the most skilled and talented people in a particular area, whose insights are invaluable in classroom settings. Employers should consider offering high-level employees as guest speakers or presenters, or even helping administrators gear their curriculum toward emerging needs in the industry.

Offer apprenticeships

The best experience any student can have is practical and hands-on. All manufacturers should consider offering apprenticeships to students in the area. Not only will this improve productivity with extra hands on deck, but it will also help build a reliable workforce. Even better, apprenticeships can work synergistically with donations to trade and vocational schools because it gives manufacturers access to a pool of talent.

Create reskilling programmes

One of the easiest ways manufacturers can support vocational training is right in their facilities. Not only is there a worker shortage, but the skills needed to succeed in manufacturing are rapidly changing as technology becomes more integrated in the industry. Many workers will need to learn new skills to work with advanced machinery.

Manufacturers can create their own internal programmes to help employees learn the skills they need and transition into new roles of interest. These programmes can be created as needed, and even come in the form of mini apprenticeship programmes.

As we contend with the skilled labour shortage and try to navigate the fourth industrial revolution, there’s never been a greater need for vocational training than there is right now. Increasingly fearful of debt and seeking well-paying, secure jobs, more students are taking the plunge and enrolling in trade schools.

State and federal governments are pitching in with funding for vocational training programmes and ad campaigns to promote the trades. However, manufacturers have the biggest contributions to make toward the effort, with invaluable knowledge to impart to the next generation, as well as insight into what their industries need now and in the future.