Efficient Plant January 2020 - 12

feature | workforce development
automation technologies that are now the
new normal.

NEW COLLAR JOBS
In many ways manufacturing jobs are no
longer strictly blue collar. The term "new
collar jobs" seems more applicable. No
longer can a high-school graduate find an
entry-level position in manufacturing. In
most cases, they will need special skills
training either through a community or
technical college. With IIoT, the need
for highly skilled workers who are
comfortable with digital tools and
equipment and can interpret the data
becomes a necessity.
Upskilling and filling gaps in
new-technology skills training
requires the manufacturing industry
to work with technical schools, two-year
colleges, community colleges, and fouryear universities, as well as policymakers, to
shape academic programs, design curricula,
and create apprenticeships that meet the
needs of students and businesses.
Increasing numbers of companies are
providing skills training in-house to their
new hires and to their customers so workers
know how best to use equipment safely and
effectively. The types of training offered by
manufacturers include hands-on classroom
or work-floor training, e-learning modules
and, in some cases, augmented reality (AR).
Equipment manufacturers are also creating learning platforms that incorporate
their commonly used products. These are
flexible, hands-on, customizable skids that
a company or school can purchase and set
up in their onsite learning space to help
workers and students become proficient on
equipment in a controlled setting.
A very successful example of industry
and a college working together to provide
workforce training is found at Ranken
Technical College in St. Louis. The college
provides hands-on learning in an integrated

12

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work-based experience in a microenterprise
setup. This allows students to gain industrial
training, certifications, college credit, and a
part-time salary while they work in the
industry and gain applicable experience.
The result is students who are highly desir-

the learning curve and builds confidence.
These technologies also allow the existing
workforce to participate in the training of
new/younger workers, resulting in consistency and continuity as retirees are replaced.
There are distinct benefits to shortening
the learning curve, as few workers want to
invest years in mastering a skill set. It's also
a reality that workers rarely stay beyond five
or ten years in one position. In addition, the
generations coming into the workforce have
grown up as digital natives and this type
of learning is readily embraced.

GOING FORWARD

able employees for manufacturing.
Local manufacturers, as well as the
automation industry, provide the Ranken
program with the equipment they need
workers to be able to use, such as the
flexible and customizable skids. In turn,
Ranken educators teach students how to
use the equipment, troubleshoot problems,
and understand how each piece fits within
the larger processes at a given manufacturing facility. Programs, such as the one at
Ranken, are proving to be highly successful
partnerships and we are encouraged to see
them replicated across the country.

AUGMENTED LEARNING
A new development in skills training is the
use of AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality). AR and VR allow the user to
perform a task and get a feel for the nuances
of what that task entails while receiving
instant performance feedback. This shortens

Higher education is playing a large
role in helping close the manufacturing
skills gap. Community and technical
colleges are at the forefront of teaching
and training new employees. These schools
are establishing relationships with manufacturing companies and inviting industry
leaders to become part of the solution.
Meanwhile, industry is working to establish and deepen relationships with schools
to ensure that practical-skills training is
part of the curriculum. With the heavy
workloads on plant floors there is little time
for on-the-job training, which is where
apprenticeships, combined with classroom
learning, become invaluable. In many ways
these partnerships provide a strategic pipeline of skills development and introduce the
opportunities available in manufacturing.
The model can be replicated across the country, and we're seeing more businesses and
community colleges committing to it. EP
Mike Brouse, Manager, Global Workforce
Development (mike.brouse@emerson.
com), has been with Emerson Automation
Solutions, Austin, TX, for 30 years. He
has a mechanical engineering degree from
Penn State Univ., State College, PA, and an
international business degree from Regis
Univ., Denver.

JANUARY 2020


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Efficient Plant January 2020

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