The Smartforce Development department has actively been working with our AMT Advocacy group colleagues to develop an update of AMT’s Manufacturing Mandate to address market dynamics. In the previous version of the Mandate, we focused on three foundational guideposts with regard to Smartforce Development, including:
Supporting STEM challenges at schools with an emphasis on robotics competitions
Supporting industry-recognized standards and credentials, mainly through NIMS, that are germane to the greatest number of job functions that our industry needs in a significant recruiting pipeline of workers
Supporting the growth of internships and apprenticeships in our industry
In the years since we first put pen to paper for Smartforce Development in the Mandate, we have combined working within an existing framework of federal policy with intentional action on behalf of AMT on behalf of our members. The goal of the updated Mandate is to impact decision-making among federal policymakers by providing a clear vision of near-term and long-term future goals of our industry.
It’s fitting that the next generation Mandate focus on the impact of emerging technologies on workforce development and on having a positive effect on policies that will impact the next generation of workers in U.S. manufacturing facilities.
Even though manufacturing was deemed an essential industry at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the overall manufacturing workforce was reduced in size due to several factors, including supply chain disruptions negatively impacting the size and scope of the industry’s contribution to U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) not protecting all jobs. Companies adjusted course in order to remain competitive, but the skills gap widened during 2020 as a result.
The trend toward automation, robotics, and other emerging technologies requires that we venture toward a more deliberate approach to our industry’s current, near-term and long-term workforce needs, and industry must lead the way with policymakers in Washington and in the 50 states.
AMT’s Manufacturing Mandate 3.0 includes the following recommendations:
Develop policy and legislation to address a looming gap in our educational infrastructure by growing our pipeline of career and technical education (CTE) teachers and improving and creating awareness about opportunities in CTE.
Develop policy and legislation to enable schools to be able to more affordably purchase manufacturing technology equipment, hardware, and software to build out their program labs so that they keep pace with technology advancements.
Double down on the development of industry-recognized standards and credentials, as well as industry-recognized “earn and learn” apprenticeship programs for current job functions, in addition to those job functions that will arise as a result of emerging technologies.
Through education programs and events like IMTS, AMT will continue to work to change perceptions about careers in manufacturing among the next generation of students, their teachers, administrators, and family members. Awareness of STEM and CTE career pathways are an important step to closing the skills gap in manufacturing, but policy matters too. As an industry, we must effect change at the federal and state levels to ensure that a consistent, competent workforce is headed toward a career in U.S. manufacturing.