Manufacturers Propose Roadmap for Education Reform

April 14, 2011

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A skilled and educated workforce is the single most critical element of innovation capacity. Yet it's also the hardest asset to acquire, according to a new report. To address the problem, The Manufacturing Institute lays out key principles for education reform.

While a barrage of recent research — including reports from Towers Watson and Deloitte — has determined that companies are facing problems attracting employees with the critical skills needed to help them recover from the economic crisis, manufacturing firms are especially struggling to attract and retain top talent.

Skilled trades regularly top Manpower Inc.'s annual list of the hardest jobs to fill, despite high national unemployment. At the height of the recession, 32 percent of manufacturers reported that they had jobs going unfilled because they could not find workers with the right skills, according to a new report from The Manufacturing Institute, which is part of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).

Moreover, 84 percent stated that the nation's school system is doing an inadequate job of preparing students for the workplace.

"The world is experiencing an era of volatile and rapid transformation. This is exacerbating the disconnect between learning and industry as education cannot keep up," Manpower Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Joerres said in a call for education overhaul in January. "The entire system needs to be reevaluated. Changes would be significant, but are necessary to ensure industry, governments and educators are to effectively align education and training with business needs."

To address the problem, The Manufacturing Institute's new study lays out key principles for innovative reform, including: moving to competency-based education; establishing and expanding industry-education partnerships; and optimizing technology to reduce education costs.

The following are examples of the institute's specific recommendations:

  • Introducing more technology-driven alternatives for secondary and postsecondary education, including computer-based instruction that is personalized for individual students and uses all the tech tools and applications currently available;
  • Integrating "nationally portable, industry-recognized skills certification" into high school and community college degree programs of study, thereby providing a framework for engagement between education and manufacturers that produces a consistent set of credentials across the U.S.;
  • Establishing competency-based education pathways — built on standards, performance and proficiency, rather than seat time — along with opportunities to earn interim credentials with value in the workplace, which allow students to advance in their education as they gain mastery; and
  • Accelerating learning and compressing traditional secondary and postsecondary schedules through early college and dual enrollment models, changing the assumption about the length of schooling required to obtain skills and develop talent while also providing an opportunity to realize savings.

"These principles can and should be readily applied in current federal and state legislative and budget deliberations," Emily DeRocco, president of the institute, said in an announcement of the study. "Building an educated and skilled workforce is one of the most significant actions we can take to ensure U.S. leadership in manufacturing."

The Manufacturing Institute's Roadmap to Education Reform for Manufacturing is the product of a December 2010 roundtable hosted by the institute and NAM, where manufacturing executives, education officials and thought leaders gathered to provide input on a national strategy to reform education. The proposed changes are intended to support U.S. manufacturing and ultimately design an integrated strategy that will enable the education system to develop a smart, safe and sustainable 21st-century manufacturing workforce.

Resources

Roadmap to Education Reform for Manufacturing The Manufacturing Institute, March 31, 2011

The Manufacturing Institute Releases Roadmap for Education Reform for Manufacturing The Manufacturing Institute, March 31, 2011

Manpower Inc. Calls for Education Overhaul to Ease Skills Mismatch Manpower, Jan. 21, 2011

Employers Acknowledge Recession's Impact on Ability to Attract ... Critical-Skill Talent Towers Watson, Oct. 11, 2010

Unexpected Global Skill Shortages Threaten Corporate Growth and Innovation Deloitte, Dec. 8, 2010

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