Due to the acute shortage of skilled workers coming out of technical colleges, factories have now taken upon themselves the onus of training their own workers. Two factors lie behind this return to in-house training: A quiet renaissance in some niches of America’s Rust Belt and a shortage of highly skilled blue-collar workers.
On-site training for blue-collar workers was once common practice, especially throughout the early 1900s. Then in the 70’s it fell out of favor as students preferred going to college to earn degrees and get white-collar jobs. With the result, there were almost no students learning a trade. Today, despite business booming for some US manufacturers, unfortunately the technical schools can’t provide enough skilled workers. This shortfall provides a rare opportunity in this economy for good-paying jobs and the potential for secure employment.
Instead of relying on community colleges or private schools to get skilled workers, companies like AGCO Corp. in Jackson, Minnesota, a global manufacturer of agricultural machinery, are one of a number of manufacturers who are restarting their own training programs. “We tried that route” of recruiting at schools, says Dave Dehrkoop, AGCO’s chief technical engineer for welding. Now, AGCO is developing factory-floor training programs at its facilities worldwide. “We train our own welders in-house,” says David Landon, manager of welding engineering at Vermeer Corp., which designs and manufactures equipment for the agricultural, construction, recycling, and surface-mining industries. “The schools cannot keep up with our demand.
As fewer young people are learning a trade and despite the abundance of jobs and good pay, technical classes remain unfilled. Workers who want a high-paying career through a skilled trade should seek training in multiple places, such as at a tech school, in the military, at a university – and on the job, says Ernest Levert, a past president of the American Welding Society. Manufacturers see benefits to on-site programs. Training can be tailored to company-specific techniques and upgraded to include new technology. It also attracts job seekers and boosts retention. Of late, companies are getting much more involved, serving on boards and partnering with tech schools to develop curriculum, while still letting schools lead recruitment.