There were a number of recurring themes running through the speaker presentations at the AMT Global Forecasting and Marketing Conference in October. Among the key issues: capacity utilization, the money supply and interest rates, as well as the impact of federal regulations on specific industry sectors, especially regarding fuel economy standards in automotive and heavy transportation. Many of the speakers also focused on the skills gap in engineering, production and service, as well as the talent gap in sales and operations, as risk factors to growth.

The point that the economists were making is that if we are not able to educate and recruit the next generation of qualified young people into career pathways in manufacturing to replace our aging workforce, this will create a burden on manufacturers’ ability to continue to grow. There is every reason to believe that the demand for postsecondary skills and credentials is only going to increase in the future, driven both by demographics, as well as by a general move away from career and trade education that occurred in our school systems during the past couple of decades.

More recently, there are many terrific examples of manufacturers working with educational institutions around the country to re-energize career-tech programs and to re-start apprenticeship programs with the support of the Department of Labor (DOL) and nationally accredited, industry-supported certification programs like those from NIMS for machinists, production technicians, and maintenance and field service personnel.

One speaker discussed in detail a phenomenon that is taking place throughout the southern U.S. where foreign direct investment is being made in automotive transplants and the suppliers that support those plants. In Alabama, there is a joint public/private partnership that’s encouraging students to begin the first year of their apprenticeship while they are still in high school. In South Carolina, state and county workforce development boards are actively working with existing transplants and encouraging more transplants by supporting more advanced manufacturing technology degree programs in their community college system.

The traditionally strong manufacturing states are not planning on being left behind. In the state of Ohio, for example, the Department of Jobs and Family Services apprenticeship program is referred to as “The Other Four Year Degree.” Considering the current state of unemployment or under-employment by recent college graduates, more and more families are beginning to see community college education in advanced manufacturing and a career in a STEM job as a viable option. And according to a recent survey by the Boston Consulting Group, 50 percent of all STEM jobs require less than a four-year college degree.

For more information about apprenticeship programs in your state, visit:

Also in October, I attended the meeting of the Board of Directors of NIMS and I learned that, after a record number of credentials awarded to future machinists and production technicians in 2013 (13,888), NIMS has already surpassed last year’s total in the number of credentials awarded in the first 9 months of 2014 alone. And since the November-December timeframe normally sees a large number of new tests taken and credentials awarded coinciding with the end of a semester, NIMS is positioned to soundly exceed its record in total credentials awarded.

In late October, we held the final Regional Validation meeting with members of the AMT Service Committee and other AMT members to continue to advance the update of the NIMS standards for Machine Repair Level II & III for the Field Service Technician (FST) job function. In early 2015, NIMS Level I: General Industrial Maintenance and Machine Repair Level II & III will be completed, and the standards will be available for career and technical schools and community colleges to update their curriculum to meet the new standards. This effort is designed to provide our industry with a stronger pipeline of qualified candidates for the FST job function.

For more information, contact Greg Jones at For more frequent updates, follow me on Twitter @GregoryAJones.