Efficient Plant February 2020 - 4

column | editorial

This Union
Makes a
Skills-Gap
Difference
Gary L. Parr
Editorial Director

Unions are also driving the effort to fill the skills gap.

4

| EFFICIENTPLANTMAG.COM	

EP2002editorial.indd 4

W

HEN THE SUBJECT of
developing and retaining
skilled workers comes up,
it's always easy to hear from employers
and employees. Lately, I've been wondering what unions are experiencing.
What role are they playing, if any? Are
they trying? Are they having success?
This topic came up in a discussion
with my friend, Brian Muscat, who is
Business Representative for Painters
District Council No. 30 in Aurora, IL
(pdc30.com). He connected me with
Steve Lefaver, the Director of Apprenticeship & Training at North Central
Illinois Finishing Trades Institute at
District Council No. 30, also in Aurora.
They're facing the same problems
everyone else is when it comes to finding
skilled workers. According to LeFaver,
marketing and promotion is an issue
and, nationwide, the apprenticeship path
is still a well-kept secret. Their biggest
barrier is parents and educators and
the deeply ingrained expectation that
everyone needs a four-year degree to be
successful.
Using every angle to change that
perception, in addition to job fairs and
career-day events, they work very closely
with middle schools, high schools, and
community colleges to develop programs that expose students to vocational
skills in all areas.
Community colleges are their
gold mine. In addition to career fairs,
which draw many more parents than
high-school events, they have directors of community college programs
approaching them to figure out how they
can work together and take advantage
of ample funding that's available for
pre-apprenticeship programs.

At the high-school level, it's the slow
grind of breaking down that college
stigma and helping educators and students realize that there is a large pool of
excellent jobs in manufacturing and the
trades and that students generally don't
have to start their work careers saddled
with education-related debt.
A major sign that progress is being
made is that several area high schools
have developed formal vocational
programs. In one instance, the school
district has constructed a building
dedicated to vocational education. A
typical program for juniors and seniors
is regular classes for half a day, the other
half spent off site. The first half of the initial semester is devoted to earning health
and safety certification. The second half
involves introduction to all of the trades.
Students then do job shadowing at an
actual job site with a sponsoring employer. This program is realizing an 80%+
rate of success.
Are employers on board? Definitely.
In fact, the union works quite closely
with employers to develop and hire individuals who complete the apprenticeship
program.
Obviously, LeFaver and his team are
working hard on a variety of fronts in
a race against time to develop skilled
workers while the rate of retirements
increases. The standout for me is that
they are focused more on the long-term
solution by working extensively with
schools so that this shortage problem
will eventually go away.
If you want to learn more about their
programs and experiences, contact Steve
LeFaver at slefaver@pdc30.com or Brian
Muscat at bmuscat@pdc30.com. EP
gparr@efficientplantmag.com

FEBRUARY 2020

1/30/20 12:13 PM


http://www.pdc30.com http://www.EFFICIENTPLANTMAG.COM

Efficient Plant February 2020

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Efficient Plant February 2020 - 1
Efficient Plant February 2020 - Cover1
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