Friday, April 6, 2018

Manufacturing Education Gets a Face-Lift with LIFT

By: Elliot Forsyth

There’s no question that one of the biggest concerns we hear from our clients is finding and keeping good employees. Unfortunately, this situation is likely to only get worse. In the next decade, it is expected that of the nearly 3.5 million open U.S. manufacturing jobs, roughly 2 million are anticipated to go unfilled due to a gap in skills required for holding such jobs. In other words, students and workers today are not prepared for the jobs of tomorrow.

To address this gap, a number of organizations are stepping forward to target the root of the problem: lack of proper education. These groups have begun focusing their efforts on assisting colleges and high schools with how to better align curricula with the needs of the industry workforce. One such organization is Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT), a Detroit-based Manufacturing USA Institute that works to develop and deploy advanced lightweight materials manufacturing technologies, as well as implement training programs to prepare students for the modern industry landscape. The goal in developing this training is to prevent the skills gap from growing larger by building workforce strategies and knowledge around new lightweighting technologies.

As lightweighting continues to grow in the manufacturing world, it is important to teach the next generation about the uses, development and science behind such innovations. This need is what drove LIFT, along with the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) and the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS), to establish an Expert Educator Team (EET). The EET is a group of college and university faculty members, all of whom have years of experience and expertise in both materials science and education and workforce preparation. Drawing from this knowledge, the EET works to gather insight and recommend changes or additions to college courses to better target the skills gap and prepare workers for current manufacturing job requirements.

Real Solutions to a Real Problem
What does this look like in reality? The EET is in the process of publishing a series of six reports with comprehensive recommendations for how teachers and professors can modify their curricula to better reflect the knowledge and skills needed for manufacturing jobs dealing with lightweighting technologies, materials and processes. The first and second reports have already been published, which urge educators to focus on developing students’ skills in areas including thin-wall ductile iron castings, powder consolidation processes and agile sheet metal fabrication. These reports include detailed recommendations for what to cover in future training, as well as sources of further learning, including online videos and webinars.

Another source for further learning is the Learning Hub, a joint effort created by LIFT and the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI). This resource provides the first nationally relevant, open source online library of lightweighting and composites-related educational materials to be used by educators and students at all levels.

In addition to supporting current students, LIFT also works to help future veterans find civilian careers through Operation Next. This initiative seeks to provide military personnel with high-level training for the most in-demand jobs in advanced manufacturing to ensure their job search is as smooth and easy as possible. This is accomplished through a combination of self-directed virtual learning and hands-on lab work.

Preparing the future workforce for modern manufacturing will be an ongoing challenge, and organizations and initiatives such as these are important components that can have a beneficial impact and help the industry thrive in a global marketplace.


MEET OUR EXPERT
Elliot Forsyth
Vice President of Business Operations

Elliot is Vice President of Business Operations at The Center, where he is responsible for leading practice areas that include cybersecurity, technology acceleration, marketing, market research and business development. Over the past two years, Elliot has led The Center's effort to develop a state-of-the-art cybersecurity service for companies in the defense, aerospace and automotive industries, supporting Michigan companies in safeguarding their businesses and maintaining regulatory compliance.



Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.

2 comments:

  1. Yes, their is a skills gap preventing open positions from being filled. But, it isnt soley due to the skills gap. By 2030 we will experience a demographic problem, not enough working age people to fill all the jobs available. The other big issue; parents currently working in manufacturing are encouraging their kids not to go into manufacturing. Although there is a skills gap issue, spending millions of dollars now on additional equipment and curriculum might be putting the cart before the horse. There is no quick fix and more money isn't the silver bullet.

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  2. This is a very well written article and a VERY important issue on a global scale, more than most might realize. We are a plastics manufacutring company located in Adelaide, South Australia and currently going through an external GAP analysis of our company and culture with Sean Bates Dan Hadley from JLB www.jlb.com.au to identify how we can retain and enhance our workforce. Do you think culture plays into these other factors of education and total LIFT enhancement?

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