The news has been filled with stories about a “skills gap” in the manufacturing sector. While experts disagree on the severity of the current problem, they all agree that if not mitigated it will become a very real and very big problem by the end of the decade. One study even puts the number at a deficit of 875,000 highly skilled workers in 10 years.
At Keats, we have always been concerned with finding the next generation of skilled workers. We feel that one part of the answer lies in a robust and paid internship program. In fact, we recently hired five new employees from our latest internship group. Historically, manufacturers have recruited through colleges, high schools and vocational schools. While there was a time when this might have worked, it just doesn’t get the job done anymore. Thanks to cut backs in actual hands-on manufacturing training in today’s schools, kids just aren’t graduating with a high enough level of skills, or in many cases, none at all. Our internship program allows us to not only see who can develop the best manufacturing skills, it also lets us understand who will be the best as a worker, and a team member. Unlike blindly hiring based strictly on qualifications, we get a detailed look at our interns’ work habits, motivation level, and dedication to learning.
Thanks to these tangible benefits, the internship program has been a smashing success. A recent graduation ceremony for the statewide internship program, which has supplied interns to Keats, not only produced some promising new employees but also featured a speech by Illinois’ Senator Dick Durbin praising our efforts.
The skills gap problem is not going away on its own. Companies, schools, and governments need to focus on finding and creating solutions as soon as possible. We hope that our successful internship program will inspire others to follow us in building a strong future for American manufacturing.