Skill Gap- It’s Not About Wages

Dan’s comments were a response he shared with PMPA members regarding the charge of one talking head on last week’s 60 Minutes that ‘there is no Skills Gap… industry would have skilled workers if we only paid higher wages.’

Guest Post by Dan Murphy, REM Sales

Part of the problem is that nowadays most of the manual labor has been automated out of manufacturing processes.When you had a large pool of unskilled workers performing simple tasks, a company could find the hard working person that had math skills and mechanical aptitude and put them into an apprenticeship program and that person could advance. Today companies need to find that person right out of the box which is very difficult to do.

There are some people that will never be good at math, and the more time I spend in this business, I truly believe that mechanical aptitude is genetic. You either have it or you don’t, and it can’t be taught. Perhaps the solution is to recruit seniors from high schools. There is a standardized test for mechanical aptitude and I think that test, administered along with something like the Predictive Index and a math test, would yield better candidates.

At the end of the day, no school is going to give you a guy that can hit the ground running on an eight-axis Swiss, or be able to set up and troubleshoot a multispindle cam automatic. Companies still have to develop employees with those skills and offer continuous training to keep their employees skill set up to date. Raising wages alone does not create great machinists. Aptitude, attitude, talent, training, and experience do.

These do not arrive by merely raising wages. Higher wages are a reflection of these in an employee.

Just boosting wages will not magically (nor immediately) create 8 axis qualified machinists.

We need to create a pipeline of talent for our machining craft. Working in conjunction with local community colleges is an ideal way to help take some of the training burden off of small companies. But we have to get involved so that the school gives us what we  need in our workforce today.

I just returned from a trip to China. China is different than I imagined.

I was surprised by the number of big American and European cars on the roads. And the factory I visited was world class.

The companies in China are doing plenty of training too. they do because they need machinists too.

It’s not about raising wages. It’s about finding talent and providing training.

As a company, we have always been willing to share our training materials with our customers.

Surprisingly few ask for it.

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5 Responses to Skill Gap- It’s Not About Wages

  1. I printed and posted this in my classroom. No one is calling me asking about the skills gap, they just expect us to close it. On our own, we created a tight Business Advisory group, which has made all the difference. 10-12 South Florida companies come to our meetings twice a year. Reckon how many other colleges can say that…

  2. Jim Glass says:

    I’m on an advisory committee at a local junior college. We had a discussion about this topic last week. We looked for ways to find people
    in the high schools with the aptitude for mechanical work. I think people with mechanical aptitude are overlooked and directed toward other careers. We need to find ways for young people to see what we do
    in manufacturing.

    The problem really goes farther back than high school. I have a grandson that seems really interested in my machine shop. But the Grandson has a father and mother that are together. The father shows the young boy how to work on things then there is me showing him stuff.

    Think of all those young gear heads that live in single parent households with no Dad around to expose them to their inherited aptitude. What a loss. Then there are the Dads that never fix, build or repair anything.

    I was lucky to have a father that recognized my aptitude. I think he may have had a tear in his eye the evening I recieved my
    Tool & Die Maker certificate back in 1974. I often wish he could see what I’m doing now days. Then again, it is better he never saw what has happened to manufacturing in the US. He would be outraged.

    Jim Glass
    Outback Machine Shop
    Tool & Die Maker/Electrician

  3. Mike Pasch says:

    The NTMA Toledo Chapter has been engaged in our local government and schools in taking a more serious approach to skilled trades. The biggest complaint i hear from shops, is lack of skilled workers, we have 3 high schools in toledo with machine shop programs, but most shops arent even aware of it and the schools to not encourage kids to get involved, because you know “every kid has to go to college”. But we have gotten the right peoples attention and next Monday we have a meeting with local shop owners and the shop teachers, advisors, coordinators, etc., so that we can let them know how they can better serve us and we can better serve them. So that we can let those instructors know what we need these kids know when they come out of HS and into our shops. We used to use a HS in Bedford, MI. Last year when I called the teacher to get a cop-op, all 16 seniors were spoken for, this was 6 months before graduation. So where were we left to go? I knew Toledo schools had programs, but was hesitant to go there and ask for kids, as I knew they didn push the program, it was more of a butts in seats thing. So hopefully the meeting goes well Monday and we can get some kids involved in the trade and start hiring kids that have a start, instead of trying to train them from scratch.

    • speakingofprecision says:

      Engaging is important if we are to help folks see the positives a career in advanced manufacturing has to offer!. Keep at it!

  4. john miler says:

    You said “There are some people that will never be good at math, and the more time I spend in this business, I truly believe that mechanical aptitude is genetic.”

    I agree with you…This is an IQ factor…test People for IQ and take only once with IQ 100+ ,you can train them easy…

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