September 8, 2023
By: Katie Rapp
It’s no longer news that many manufacturers find it difficult to attract and retain enough skilled employees. The nationwide manufacturing talent shortage and skills gap pose complex challenges that threaten individual companies’ bottom lines. In a larger context, these issues weaken U.S. supply chains and ultimately national security.
MEP Centers around the country are helping manufacturers solve workforce challenges through a wide range of programs and services. A new guide, MEP National Network Workforce Programs, Services and Trainings, showcases these efforts across the country. The guide provides a listing of workforce programs, services and trainings offered by the MEP Centers in each state and Puerto Rico.
A wide variety of workforce offerings to meet local needs
Each MEP Center offers unique programs and services based on the needs of the manufacturers in its region. These services address every stage of the employee lifecycle: talent assessment and planning, attraction and recruitment, training and development for production workers as well as leadership, employee engagement and retention, and more broadly creating an effective organizational culture to become an employer of choice.
A small sampling of the state-by-state offerings listed in the new guide includes:
- Apprenticeship programs for students and adults
- New employee training, upskilling for incumbent employees, leadership training
- Automation and advanced manufacturing technology training
- Certifications for lean, quality, food safety and many other areas
- Technical skills training such as machining and blueprint reading
- Diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility programs
- Career readiness and job placement services
- And much more
Complex challenges and focused solutions
Even before the pandemic, manufacturers found it difficult to attract and retain qualified workers. Driving factors include an aging workforce and resulting retirements, changing skill requirements driven by advanced technology, a lack of awareness among students and parents of the career opportunities available in manufacturing, and company talent management processes that have not adapted to the new realities of the labor market. In this environment, manufacturers need to strengthen and optimize every aspect of their talent management.
Successful companies get superior business results by doing two simple things exceptionally well:
- They build effective programs to select, develop and retain talent
- They engage and invest in all employees – from top leadership to the shop floor – by giving them tools for solving problems and taking ownership of their roles
By investing in workforce development and training, manufacturers can address their workforce challenges head-on. MEP National Network experts understand the importance of remaining competitive in today’s rapidly evolving marketplace, and can provide manufacturers with a solid foundation for growth through the workforce services they offer.
Strategic effort across the MEP National Network
These efforts are part of implementing the MEP National Network 2023-2027 Strategic Plan [opens PDF]. Narrowing the workforce gap is one of the strategic plan’s primary goals. The plan calls for enabling small and medium-sized manufacturers to navigate the current workforce shortage while improving productivity and profitability. All MEP Centers are working toward this goal.
Contact your local MEP Center, WMEP Manufacturing Solutions
The new guide enables manufacturers, and the public, to learn more about what each MEP Center does and to showcase these workforce activities nationally. This guide is not exhaustive, and manufacturers should contact their local MEP Center, WMEP Manufacturing Solutions, for more detailed information about workforce-related offerings and for personalized assistance.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Katie Rapp is a writer/editor for NIST’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership where she helps NIST MEP staff use plain language so their readers can understand what they write the first time they read…