Five Ways to Bridge the Skills Gap

As the U.S. moldmaking industry continues toward economic recovery, finding the right worker for the job is a huge concern. In the past, entry-level machinists could be hired with little experience; yet today’s computerized machines and higher levels of automation demand a deeper skill set, even for beginners.


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Strong drive and a good imagination help in any career; but to get hired today moldmakers need math, computer and programming skills. Here are five tips for facing the skills gap challenge head on:

1.    Establish Industrial Arts: Today kids grow up playing with computers, laptops, video games and advanced cell phones—all of which have the same technology as the machines used by moldmakers; it’s just set up differently. The chance to work with advanced computer technologies could be a tremendous draw for young people to enter manufacturing, if they are aware of the opportunities. Today there is a push to get schools to re-establish industrial arts; as such many school systems are sharing IA programs to save money. Young people with the right skills can develop a career path starting right out of high school.

2.    Bring Back Apprenticeships: Certification programs and vocational schools are coming back, and serve some of the same functions, for developing skilled workers. The National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS), for instance, offers 52 separate skills credentials, including moldmaking, and die casting.  

3.    Continue Skills Development: It is critical to continue skills development for the current workforce, so the best workers don’t migrate to other industries. Many mold and die companies have programs that pay for employee education and certification. Workers can sign up for NIMS-type programs or programs at community colleges. It’s a great opportunity for workers who can’t afford four-year College— they can start off running a machine in a mold and die shop, then go to school at night. Supplier-run training facilities are another resource where mold shops can send a group to be taught, for example, the theory of metal cutting to help them work at a higher level in their shop.  

4.    Get Involved. Go to school open houses or career days and talk to students. We need more companies to offer internships and apprenticeships, and to invite students to visit their facilities, and see what manufacturing really is. Some technology suppliers donate older cutting tools or excess scrap material to local schools. This not only helps schools manage costs, but it gives students experience with different materials.

5.    Focus on Key End Markets. While we have lost low-skilled manufacturing jobs to overseas producers, the U.S. still boasts the highest technology. That’s good news for moldmakers. Aerospace and medical are frontrunner industries for the U.S., and both are critical to moldmakers in particular. Mold and die was one of the first sectors to get hit by the global downturn, but they’re making a comeback with the aerospace, biomedical and wind power industries. Many die and moldmakers have converted from their traditional business to these high-tech areas.

To maintain technology leadership, manufacturers must take responsibility for bridging the skills gap by promoting manufacturing industries within our communities; working with the school systems; and, making sure people understand that manufacturing is a high-technology career.