Hope that you read this submission from Don Fitchett of the Business Industrial Network. Joel, I have reviewed the honorable and smart approach to bridging the skills gap between manufacturing and job applicants by reaching the young. While bridging the knowledge and skill required gap between manufacturing and our educational institutions is the obvious and key approach. I feel there is a major efficiency and effectiveness deficit in the approach and my views may help the great champions of this cause close that deficit. I see our current state of this closing the educational/skill gap equivalent to telling our next generation … “You like Blue wires(job type)? Here is a dumpster full of wires(jobs) and I can guarantee you there are some excellent blue wires in there somewhere!” What most of the target (Next generation of young people) don’t know is that there is blue wire finder and organizer tool (occupy a job app), under the dumpster to help them out. Some can’t find it, some aren’t even looking because they don’t want to go near the metaphorical dumpster. While our industry is working hard to paint a new image for manufacturing rather than an icky dumpster that most young prefer to steer clear of, we should be getting all the wires (jobs) organized and well defined as these are blue wires, theses are red, and find those seeking blue, and hand them the blue wires. Let me explain… The industry needs … 1st Define the Need 2nd Define the Target 3rd Reach the Target 4th Convince the Target While great efforts and work have gone into “Define the need” (see also http://www.nationalskillscoalition.org), the core definition has been overlooked which makes for a weak foundation in which to build the entire project on. Clear job definitions have to be first be defined on the national level. The core of our nation’s job definitions are built around the 1960 Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH). We need to first start an initiative to get industry and government to create a 2013 OOH (they have outlook, but not updated job descriptions for our industry, which makes outlook predictions for our industry of little relevance to those starting a career or deciding which to start. ) For a more clear example see http://www.bin95.com/Maintenance-Technician-Jobs-Training.htm Those who know me, know I like to make a point through exaggeration. Let’s say a high school grad is impressed with the pay scale and outlook for welding jobs because the virtual welding simulation and contest struck his/her interest. They spend their first couple years out of HS learning the welding trade. But so was everyone else and now 2015, the building, shipping, etc. welding job market is saturated, so they look to manufacturing industry for employment. But the hiring maintenance manager says I need a maintenance person that can not only weld, but needs to know how to troubleshoot and fix equipment. I need a maintenance person who knows C++ computer programming so they can work with the new Process Automation Controllers we have in our machines. Yes, exaggerating a point but surprisingly that actually does happen. Same thing with a the long time initiative to get young people interested in manufacturing via Robot battle contest. They go to school for 2-4 years, but the maintenance manager wants them to know welding too. The manufacturing maintenance jobs are not defined nationally, and that missing core foundation will slow any and all initiatives to fix the jobs skill shortage. In contrast look at the occupations “Electrician” or “Millwright”. Largely due to the unions, those jobs are well defined nationally. While the unions soiled their reputation in the past with a few abusing their power, they did succeed at quickly closing the skills gap and making their targeted jobs attractive to those starting out in their careers by first well defining the job. The union job used to be the preferred job (attractive) because you knew what skill was required of you and that you would be paid fairly for that skill. (Later it got out of hand with corruption and wanting too much, but that can be fixed too.:>) And the getting out of hand was not just unions, it used to be working in manufacturing was job security. You knew (or thought) you would always have a job, retire comfortably. I never thought I would see people give 20+ years of their life and dedication to a company only for the CEO to skip town with all their pensions, or their company shut down to make another company profitable, or their company move to another country. The job security in manufacturing is a big issue now days, that was never questioned in the past. So even non-union companies now have a reputation obstacle to overcome so they can attract young skilled workers. (even big ones like Hostess plants losing thousands of jobs, who would ever guess, see it coming? It hurts manufacturing job security reputation.) Oh there I go, on a rant again. Sorry Joel. :>) Ok back on target. 1st Define the Need (Define the job description nationally, OOH) 2nd Define the Target (There are two targets, vocational student and college student. If you lump them into one campaign/initiative you will be much less effective. Weld sim for those who may go to vocational school, robot wars for those who may go to college. Or something like that, just focused on the two different demographics, not limped in to one group.) 3rd Reach the Target (your plan reaches those in college, currently looking for a job, but the “occupy a job app” has no social media sharing buttons and associated profiles on it. Haven’t you heard, to reach the young you need to be reaching out in the social media world simultaneously. :>) 4th Convince the Target (Eye on the carrot, what will the young person be working towards? IE: someday to will be manager, an engineer designing new things, afford your dreams, etc. They want to control their future, change the world, be excited and have job security. All these messages need to be sold to them simultaneously.) On the last word, since PLCs (PACs) control most every machine in every industry, in every country and all the world’s infrastructure… I think just like our industry has welding simulation contest and Robot battle contest to inspire and interest the young, our industry should have PLC programming contest. (like PLC programmed Christmas light shows.) Kids while still in high school are hungry for and seeking out new programming opportunities, we should challenge that in a way that steers them towards industrial programming experience and interest. Many are learning on their own how to write/program computer games.