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Training & Education

Taking up the challenge

By Udo O.J. Huff, M.ED.

February 2010 - After I wrote my first column for FFJournal, an article appeared in the Chicago Tribune headlined, 'Manufacturing job plunge may be terminal.'

After reading it, what I took away was the fact that the manufacturing sector isn’t in good shape and that there’s little, if anything, that can be done to fix it.

I also felt the article, to some extent, undermined the important, innovative efforts that have gone into training and education programs at companies across the country.

I have worked in the forming and fabricating business for years, dealing with and advocating for training and education for more than three decades internationally.

The forming and fabrication industry is big business in the United States, and people should recognize its importance, as well as the related training and education.

Talk the talk
In business, it all starts with a demand for products on the national and international markets. Many times, the demand is triggered by attraction, trend and availability. This also applies to training, education and apprenticeship training programs. Further, in terms of business language, the return on investment should always be part of training programs that are offered.

The industry, in general, is organized, follows financial rules, deals with customers and can react pretty flexibly to demands for its products.

How about training, education and apprenticeship training programs? From the point of view of a training professional, training and education are many times understood and applied as "short-term training" in the industry.

What we really need is long-term training or apprenticeship training programs, but this falls short in many ways:

  • Neither young nor old workers seem to recognize the validity of long-term training.
  • It doesn’t have the network needed for nationwide support, specifically, the United States no longer has the necessary educational infrastructure in place.
  • The United States lacks the required number of trained trainers to support such an educational infrastructure.
  • We don’t offer high school graduates attractive and innovative technical training and education programs with a viable career path.
  • Training and education are mostly in the hands of educators instead of trainers in the industry.
  • Existing apprenticeship training programs take too long to complete.
  • Attempted innovation is still embedded in the old, conservative structure of training programs.
  • Taking the necessary steps
    The world is going through a recession, but both the U.S. and international markets also face a huge challenge because of trends and product changes.

    The existing workforce is ailing, and there’s a need for more well-trained employees in the market. But for how long and how well can we survive with a workforce that’s nearing retirement?

    Companies are dealing with these issues every day, and they’re finding that workforce changes are an internal challenge. One solution: training and education.

    In fact, an innovative, long-term training program can help support a business and provide a return on investment.

    It’s just a matter of having the right mindset about training and education, as well as the willingness to invest in tomorrow’s workforce--and the future of the industry. FFJ

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