Reconnecting educational institutions with the job market

We have a disconnect between the skills and competencies that our education and training institutions are developing in students and the skills required by the jobs open in industry. The result is a shortage of qualified talent, many unfilled jobs, and lots of internal pain associated with meeting production targets with fewer people.

At the 25th annual SMRP conference in Kansas last week, PCA Consulting's Joel Crawford and I gave a presentation on best practices for recruiting and developing maintenance and reliability professionals. I want to take a closer look here at three factors affecting the status quo and four remedies to help you to adapt and succeed.

Factors to consider

1) People

  • Shifting demographic composition of available talent (baby boomers leaving, millennials entering the workforce) means we have new work expectations, skills, interests, goals, and work lifespan. Generational differences must be understood and accounted for when hiring and training.

2) Technology

  • Increasingly effective and capable predictive technologies are more widely available and prevalent on the shop floor today. The gap between required and available talent is further highlighted as we adopt more technology on the shop floor. The ability to leverage tech insights using capable talent will further separate the best from the rest.

3) Fast marketplace

  • Business is moving at an ever-faster pace, and the pace of technological change is accelerating. Human attitude, habits, and trends are ever-changing, which again highlights the importance of adaptability.

Remedies to deploy

1) Be inspirational

  • More and more people want to add value and be valued. This means that people look for workplaces and jobs where they can "make a difference." It’s on us to attract and inspire new hires by clearly communicating not only what we do, but also – and of more importance – why we do it.

2) Build a culture of adaptability

  • Individual and organizational adaptability will be one of the biggest reasons for an organization's survival and success. Adaptable organizations build cultures to further foster adaptability, encourage and support individual growth and development, and provide the resources to staff to achieve their potential. 
  • Partner with internal and external stakeholders to ensure your development infrastructure supports your people’s development needs.

3) Be investment-focused

  • When we change our perception of talent development from a cost to an investment, our entire thinking shifts. With investments we expect returns. This philosophy is true of organizations and of individuals investing in themselves.
  • With direct reports, know what return to expect from their development and what support they need to make meaningful improvements in what they do and how they do it.
  • Remember that if development comes in the form of an online course or a public seminar, the learning has only begun. Self-growth and development is a journey, not an event.

4) Think long-term

  • Let’s think about career development and progression and succession planning. Let’s develop the infrastructure to provide career-long growth.
  • Revitalize your apprenticeship programs. If you don’t have the capital or the time in the near term to do so, consider partnering with local colleges, tech schools, and/or training institutions.
  • Thinking long-term about investments in the adaptability of your talent is key for continued success.

There are certainly other factors at play and other remedies to follow; however, I believe that the ones shared here are vital for long-term success. We all have a part to play in reconnecting our education institutions with our open jobs. Let’s get started.

Tom Furnival, director of training services, Marshall Institute Inc.