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From the Desk of Jack Healy

Overcoming the Manufacturing Skills Gap

By Jack Healy, Director of Operations, MassMEP [email protected]

Jack Healy – The voice of manufacturing in Massachusetts
Jack Healy –
A Voice for Manufacturing in Massachusetts

A study of manufacturing enterprises in North Central Massachusetts, conducted by RTI and MassMEP, found that 69% of the manufacturers indicated a "lack of qualified job candidates was their biggest barrier to growth." While the North Central area is a perennial labor surplus area, the lack of qualified candidates with the necessary manufacturing skills comes as no surprise.

A preliminary survey of manufacturers in western Massachsuetts found this barrier to growth to be even more onerous — 77% of the manufacturers contacted indicated the lack of qualified candidates was a barrier to growth.

There has been a significant downsizing of low tech manufacturing jobs caused by the 2009 recession resulting in numerous people desperate for jobs. Conversely, the study shows there are numerous Massachsuetts manufacturers who are desperate for qualified workers to fill the jobs they already have available.

Figure 1. MassDevelopment Announces Support for the MACWIC Certification. From Left to right: Jack Healy, Director of Operations, MassMEP; Marty Jones, MassDevelopment; Former Sectary of Housing and Economic Development Greg Bialecki; Tom Wesley, Waters Corporation and MACWIC Chair; and Rep. Fernandes, Manufacturing Caucus Co-Chair.

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in their report, "U.S. Skills Gap – Could it Threaten a Manufacturing Renaissance," observed, "The real problem is that companies have become too passive in recruiting and developing skilled workers at a time when U.S. education systems have moved away from a focus on manufacturing skills in order to put greater emphasis on other capabilities. Over the long term, therefore, serious skills shortages could develop unless action is taken."

The BCG report stated, "Companies are not doing enough to cultivate a new generation of skilled manufacturing workers in the U.S." Note that this observation does not pertain to Massachsuetts because, in response to our state’s manufacturing skills gap, a group of manufacturers formed the Manufacturing Advancement Center Workforce Innovation Collaborative (MACWIC). The vision of MACWIC is to be the statewide focal point for employer-driven workforce training initiatives.

The first and immediate objective that MACWIC undertook was to create an industry-led skills certification standard that could provide a basic entry level instruction set and evaluation process that would enable employers to readily understand the skill set of the job applicant, reducing the cost of hire. The second objective undertaken was to "catalyze the talent pipe line," which meant implementing the skills certification process within the Vocational Technical High School System.

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education included the MACWIC Certification in its Vocational Technical Education Framework, which has been readily endorsed across the state.

The MACWIC certification process has been well received by schools across the state as emphasized in the following testimonials.

Testimonials from Vocational Instructors Currently Utilizing the MACWIC Level 1 and 2 Testing and Curriculum:

"The MACWIC Testing has provided our Precision Machining/CNC program with great feedback for determining where gaps in skill levels exist and where improvements can be made. A direct correlation between the MACWIC curriculum and the testing, and the ongoing feedback from industry allows us to ensure our delivery of instruction reflects the immediate needs of industry, as industry is the driving force behind the development and maintaining of MACWIC testing and curriculum." – Worcester

"Having my students sit for MACWIC certification testing has validated that my instruction is to industry standard and helps me to promote manufacturing as a viable college and career pathway." – Assabet

"MACWIC not only allows us to keep our curriculum in line with industry standard but we have students with many different learning levels. It allows our students to learn at their own comfort rate and allows them to see success at different rates." – Putnam

"The MACWIC program has brought forth a renewed interest by students to accomplish Manufacturing certification while attending high school to validate their personal accomplishments in the field. The MACWIC has been an essential partner in providing my students with rigorous curriculum and simulation software relevant to today’s high standards of Manufacturing as well as being a significant partner in the procurement of grant funding to modernize our facilities equipment" – Smith

"The MACWIC program gives students who have an interest in Machining and Manufacturing the opportunities to collaborate and share the resources that the companies who help support this program. I support it because it offers to my students many opportunities like college credit, workforce input, which I might not have the resources to offer." – Somerville

"MACWIC has become and intricate addition to what and how we currently teach. It offers us industry-validated competencies that are attached to statewide standards. It also provides our students the opportunity to receive a head start on an A.S. degree in Applied Manufacturing Technology." – McCann

In Massachusetts, manufacturing is growing. 70% of the manufacturing firms are forecasting expansion that offers a tremendous opportunity for skilled workers. Massachusetts’ manufacturers interested in joining this dynamic alliance of next generation companies that work in collaboration to solve the state’s skills gap should contact Leslie Parady at 508-831-7020.


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