In a press release distributed last month by The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) president Tom Buffenbarger says, “The chronic underinvestment in skills training is threatening America’s last remaining edge in the global economy . . . We need to wake up to this crisis before it becomes any worse.”
“Chronic underinvestment in skills training”? That’s scary language and I wonder if anyone is paying attention. I know writers are, their publishers are because they’re investing in the books that say so, but what’s happening inside organizations? Employees can’t and shouldn’t wait for their employers to make the investment, but that’s where self-starters come in. If you don’t take your development seriously you won’t get far. But it takes action.
What’s really interesting to me about the news from the IAM is the group’s calling for “an infusion of state and federal funding for apprentice programs, vocational training, community colleges and high-tech institutes.” This is important, because it can’t come from one place; that’s too much pressure. Here’s what the release says:
“With strong backing from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA), the IAM is calling for an infusion of state and federal funding for apprentice programs, vocational training, community colleges and high-tech institutes that focus on 21st century manufacturing skills and materials.”
It’s interesting that the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the U.S. will face a skilled worker shortage of eight million by 2010 and as high as 14 million by 2020. Apparently, the U.S. aerospace sector is really vulnerable, which explains IAM’s deep interest in having more skilled workers at the ready. But it makes me wonder if we’re shepherding some people toward the wrong careers. I’m sure there are workers in corner offices all over the country who wonder day after day if they’re in the right jobs. We push and push and push people toward specific goals that might not be appropriate. Perhaps that has something to do with the looming shortage—we’re pointing some people in the wrong direction.