Summarizes themes and examples gleaned from a national summit that convened higher education leaders, business leaders, state labor officials, and other experts to address the mismatch between job-market needs and the educational preparedness of the workforce in the manufacturing sector.

“Advanced manufacturing is growing and thriving in the United States. Companies are in great need of reliable employees who can communicate well, effectively make decisions, and are interested in long-term careers with opportunity for advancement. Employers have identified a need for a more robust talent pipeline to narrow America’s skills gap….To address this important issue, [the author and others] convened higher education and business leaders with state labor officials and other experts for a summit called Minding the Gap: Investing in a Skilled Manufacturing Workforce” (p.1).

The summit was held amid rising interest in advanced manufacturing….Increasing collaborations among business and industry, workforce agencies, community colleges, local and state governments, and the nonprofit sector are developing solutions—but not quickly or often enough, or at the scale needed to address demand. The summit sought to address that by focusing on key factors facing advanced manufacturers and the colleges and workforce training agencies that work with them:

  • Solutions can start at any place in the education-to-workforce pipeline—with young people in high school, community college students, or unemployed or incumbent workers. These work-based education and training models can be effective in recruitment or onboarding of new employees, development of skills aligned with employers’ needs, and career advancement opportunity, because employers themselves are deeply engaged in the design and implementation of these programs.
  • There is a need for innovations in and scaling of work-based learning strategies such as on-the-job training, apprenticeships, internships, and other `earn and learn’ models. Work-based learning treats the learner first as an employee rather than a student, while harnessing the potential for instruction and skill development inherent in a job itself. Assignments use actual work tasks and responsibilities to teach both applied and academic skills” (p.2).

This brief presents highlights from the conference, organized under the following topics:

  • “The need for a strong manufacturing talent pipeline: challenges” (p.2)
  • “Filling the pipeline: demand-driven career pathways” (p.3)
  • “Innovations in work-based learning, particularly apprenticeship” (p.6)
  • “Ideas from around the globe” (p.9)
  • “The view from state capitals and Washington” (p.10)
  • “Moving forward” (p.11)
(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

“There was a clear theme at the center of the summit: finding solutions that meet the needs of businesses and industry while providing more meaningful and rewarding career opportunities for workers” (p.2). Best practices and potential solutions from the convening included (among others): • “[P]artnerships across business, education, and workforce agencies….have been able to spread the most promising efforts to address the gap between what education and training provides and what businesses need, and so offer an option for meeting those needs on a greater scale” (p.3). • “To best match workers to opportunities in the industry, individuals must be able to access career pathways through multiple points of entry. In an ideal system, these points of entry exist in secondary, postsecondary, and the workforce” (p.3). 
 • “Companies should offer varied work-based learning experiences with on-the-job mentors who enjoy working with students, treat them with respect, and want to show them how their jobs work” (p.4). • “Community colleges are a key training partner for businesses in many areas across the country…. Transforming [a] varied set of students into a robust talent pipeline requires a complex set of solutions. Often, community colleges have to bring up the basic skills of their students while simultaneously preparing them to succeed on the job” (p.4). • “Training for potential employees works best when it serves the needs of businesses. That means companies must be directly involved in shaping the types of training available in their local areas…. Because businesses are under considerable pressure to maintain low costs, they are often reluctant to invest in training. To overcome this, education and training partners must be able to measure the business impact of frontline workforce training and be able to articulate this impact” (p.5). • “An on-the-job training model, when well designed and implemented, carries potentially significant benefits to employers and employees, as well as to the cultivation of a highly skilled labor force for the future” (p.6). • “Some states are taking initiative to address workforce gaps by tapping into the formerly unemployed and by adding new career pathways for those adults plus new high school graduates” (p.10). “A theme of the summit was the importance of articulating, measuring, and communicating the business impact of frontline workforce training” (p.7). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)