Industry Market Trends

Using Online Learning to Bridge the Skills Gap in Manufacturing

Aug 22, 2013

For U.S. manufacturing facilities to become and stay competitive, they need to cut waste, streamline their processes, and have well-trained employees. Though there has been a significant job loss within the manufacturing sector, the overall amount of goods being produced has remained fairly constant. This is the result of an increase in automated manufacturing processes and less manual effort by employees.

Today's manufacturing employee is highly skilled and cross-trained to be able to work in several different areas within the company. So how can manufacturers continue to stay competitive and keep their labor trained in the latest skills and technologies?

By participating in online training courses, companies can train their workers while minimizing the impact to the company's overall output and productivity. Online courses are "always on," so there is no significant time constraint placed on employees to complete the course. Furthermore, online training allows participants to move forward at their own pace, thus increasing the amount of the information that is retained by the individual. Whether you are looking to create an online training program or to enhance your existing one, here are some resources to consider:

  • NAM -- The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) offers a variety of skills certification programs. They vary from transportation and logistics certifications to welding and technology courses. NAM partnered with such organizations as The Association for Operations Management (APICS) and SME (the Society of Manufacturing Engineers) to administer and coordinate these programs. More information can be found via their website.

  • Lean Six Sigma -- This is perhaps one of the most popular training systems for manufacturing companies. By embracing the Lean Six Sigma philosophy, companies can see significant benefits to all areas of their business from the amount of inventory on the warehouse shelves to the efficiency of their employees. Online courses can provide training and certification for all levels from yellow belt to black belt. In addition, several online universities offer Lean Six Sigma programs and there are dedicated websites for this type of training.

  • Community Colleges -- These institutions have stepped in to fill the gap for job-specific training in many trade and manufacturing occupations. Most if not all community colleges offer online courses in these areas. In some cases, they may even create core content or exercises specific to your area of manufacturing. Wikipedia has a great listing of U.S. community colleges by state.

  • Internal Training Programs -- Create an internal program that can be used for learning new skills as well as cross-training between departments. If you don't have an internal training department with this capability, you can work with an external training company to develop the course curriculum and online applications.

  • Training Consortiums -- By partnering with other like-minded companies, you can offset the cost of developing and executing your training program.  A consortium allows you to share course content, testing materials, and presentation data as desired.

While no one knows exactly what the future holds for manufacturing employment in the U.S., I anticipate the trend of doing "more with less" continuing. A well-trained, flexible workforce will continue to be a critical component to overall success. By investing in training programs and opportunities today, companies can help to ensure their profits and success for tomorrow.



Since 1985, Michelle Benjamin, founder and CEO of Benjamin Enterprises and TalentReady, has served a broad range of industries and government at all levels. Her clients have included corporate giants like Anheuser-Busch, Kohl's Distribution, Consolidated Edison, General Electric, Entergy, and United Parcel Service (UPS). Services can include strategic process enhancements and talent management to increase productivity and the capabilities of employees.

To reach Michelle Benjamin, contact her at or 800.677.2532.