Magazine article Techniques

Formation of the IWNC: Businesses United: To Do Their Part to Help Solve the Skills Gap

Magazine article Techniques

Formation of the IWNC: Businesses United: To Do Their Part to Help Solve the Skills Gap

Article excerpt

Businesses need an educated, prepared and adaptable workforce to remain relevant and competitive in an ever-changing global society. Strong education and industry partnerships serve as the glue to strengthen and prepare students for relevant and in-demand careers of the future.

Our nation has reached a pivotal moment in its economic history when an aging workforce and advancing technology are creating a shortage of skilled workers--or skills gap. This skills gap is expected to hit middle-skill jobs the hardest. According to a 2012 study from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, middle-skill jobs--those requiring education beyond high school but less than a four-year college degree--are projected to account for 45 percent of all job openings through 2014, and only approximately 25 percent of the available workforce will be qualified to fill these positions!

The founding members of the Industry Workforce Needs Council (IWNC) are already experiencing this skills gap in their businesses. Despite a historically high rate of unemployment, these businesses are having trouble finding qualified workers to fill their open postilions. With this current and future issue in mind, business leaders from a variety of industries throughout the country have come together to form the IWNC. The mission of the Council is simple: increase the population of skilled workers in the United States through better alignment between the educational system and the opportunities created by industry.

CTE: An Old Solution for a New Problem

Career and technical education (CTE) has long prepared youth and adults for wide-ranging careers. As technology and educational standards have changed, CTE continues to evolve to align with advanced technology, rigorous academics and postsecondary educational and career paths. CTE, creates a practical learning environment that puts academics to work in real-life scenarios and provides the very necessary employability and technical skills to create career-ready students.

Caterpillar, Siemens and Lockheed Martin--along with all the other founding members of the IWNC--hire individuals worldwide in almost every job category. Their focus varies widely. They need to fill manufacturing positions that range from assemblers, skilled laborers, welders, technicians and engineers to keep their operations flowing smoothly. They need business and general operations management and leadership to manage the day-to-day operations. They also need to define, secure and deliver the future through highly skilled product designers and futuristic engineers who can spec and build the unimaginable. When recruiting for new employees. Council members look to CTE programs to produce the technical know-how. STEM skills, critical thinking and problem solving, teamwork, creativity and personal accountability they need in their employees.

The IWNC sees CTE as the cornerstone to building a robust workforce pipeline, and its members see strengthening support for CTE programs as an essential part of achieving its mission. The Council endeavors to facilitate productive partnerships with business and industry and garner support for CTE among policymakers and the general public.

An Image Problem: Not Your Grandfather's Skilled Trades

One of the long-range objectives of the IWNC is to do its part to take on the mammoth task of helping redefine the image of CTE. For many on the outside, CTE suffers from a significant image problem. For example, manufacturing and skilled trade careers are seen as low-wage, dull, dirty careers requiring little or no training. On the inside, we know that CTE is an adaptive education for all students that provides hands-on experience, uses advanced technology and aligns with rigorous academics and postsecondary education. We know that skilled trades like manufacturing are fulfilling careers that provide opportunity and access to the middle class. …

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