Creating a talent pipeline for manufacturing

Jesse Henson, President of ABB's US Motors and Generators division, talks with Smart Industry about our focus on changing the perception of manufacturing and student-focused solutions.

Jesse Henson, President of ABB's US Motors and Generators division
Jesse Henson, President of ABB's US Motors and Generators division

Across the US, manufacturers are faced with common employment challenges, including aging workforces, changing skill needs, limited interest in working in manufacturing, and a lack of real-world learning experiences for students.

A number of years ago, we identified advanced tools and processes for the future of our industrial manufacturing. We also realized these resources require different skills and abilities than we have today. We knew, at minimum, we would need to invest in the reskilling and retraining our current employees to prepare.

However, in order for the right people to be in place five and ten years from now, we looked to our communities. We established a strategic initiative within our business to create a pipeline of technically skilled young talent in the communities in which we operate. While each community is different based on its size, employers, educational institutions, and economic-development goals, in every location we are finding commonality and models that are becoming effective.

Changing the perception of manufacturing

We believe we must work together to change the perception of manufacturing. Many think of manufacturing as dark, dirty and unsafe. So, we bring students, parents and educators behind our walls where they see bright lights, clean floors and safe conditions. They see automation mixed with manual processes and robots working with humans. Our employees host plant tours, attend career fairs, and lead hands-on activities. We also support national MFG Day and speak to the value of manufacturing in our communities.

It truly takes a village. An initiative of this size can't be done alone. Across the country, we are partnering with local education systems to rethink the way we approach recruitment and career and technical education of young talent. We work side-by-side with K-12 systems and 2 and 4-year universities and colleges.

We've also formed local workforce-development councils with other manufacturers, educators, chambers of commerce, and workforce-development partners. In addition, we've forged relationships with EdgeFactor, Girl Scouts, YouScience and other student-focused organizations that support the same mission.

Student-focused solutions

Originally, we thought we were the only beneficiaries of this initiative. We quickly learned that, by keeping the focus on the students, we have the power to change lives, provide local jobs, and ensure a community's long-term success.

As such, we've worked with our educators to create specific curriculum, develop concurrent credit programs, and provide college internships. We've also started a youth apprenticeship program in a couple of our locations. When an 18-year old student graduates from high school with a valuable career plan and relevant skills and can go straight to work, she's well prepared for the years ahead. With a tuition-reimbursement program like we offer, we can help her get a college education when she's ready for it, an opportunity most parents appreciate as well.

The future of manufacturing is here. So is the talent. We need to continue to work together to help families and educators understand that manufacturing can be a rewarding career choice. It's critical that we align the students of today with the jobs of tomorrow. Not only do we need them, but our customers do, too.

Article by:
Smart Industry
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