The Manufacturing Skills Challenge & Goodwin College

Yesterday, I represented Horst Engineering at a Manufacturing Leaders Breakfast at Goodwin College in East Hartford, Connecticut. It’s so great to call Goodwin a neighbor in this community. Every time I visit, some new construction project is underway. The place just oozes growth. The vision of Goodwin’s President, Mark Scheinberg, is inspirational. He is combining his natural entrepreneurial instincts with his businessman acumen and his acquired knowledge of the education field. Even better, he surrounds himself with bright people who “get” his strategy. It’s fantastic.

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I’ve written about the manufacturing skills challenge many times. Connecticut and the rest of New England have hemorrhaged manufacturing jobs for decades. The entire country has suffered this fate, but since the bottom of the recession, there has been a rebound, particularly in the high technology manufacturing sector. Connecticut remains a loser because while other states (e.g. Michigan, Ohio, Indiana) have had sharp rebounds, we have continued to lose jobs to lower cost regions of the country (e.g. the southeast) and to other parts of the world. Our legislators are blind to the fact that our policies are preventing us from capitalizing on one of our greatest strengths. We already have a high technology manufacturing sector anchored by our aerospace industry expertise and built-in cluster. The sector is dominated by small and mid-sized businesses, which are the engines of our economy. Little is being done to secure that base. An opportunity is being squandered.

What a shame! This problem is so old, it’s growing mold. Manufacturing leaders have been screaming about a skills shortage forever. We are all anticipating the exodus of thousands of skilled workers to retirement in the next 10 years. The base of labor built on the baby boom is going to go bust and little has been done to train the next generation of manufacturing workers. Kids just aren’t exposed to manufacturing. I grew up around a machine shop, but I still was exposed to the “industrial arts” as early as 6th grade. The middle school and high school in our town had a wood shop. We had a metal shop. They taught drafting. We made stuff.

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Dr. Clifford Thermer, Goodwin’s Assistant VP of Strategy and Development, reminded us that what children see on television, “Lawyers, doctors, and cops,” is what they think a good job is. The media have glorified these careers while marginalizing manufacturing jobs to the fringe. You have to seek out cool shows about manufacturing technology, and sadly, most focus on the products, and not the people. Well, you can’t make stuff, especially high quality stuff, without human input.

So, enter Goodwin College. I’ve spoken and written about the failed attempts to turn the tide. So many government, quasi-government, and non-profit organizations have tried to solve the skills problem. They have tried to organize the private sector, marshal resources, and navigate the bureaucracy. But, it hasn’t worked. It doesn’t mean that they haven’t made progress. They just haven’t produced results in any volume. Those of us running manufacturing businesses are so busy trying to survive in a high cost environment, we can only devote a fraction of our time to the workforce development issue. It’s a huge problem. So, now Goodwin has entered the fray. That’s a good thing.

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The Goodwin team have already shaken up other sectors. They are cranking out nurses. They are re-training folks. They are teaching business in a unique way. They are succeeding in other areas too. They are even building magnet high schools in attempt to secure their own pipeline of students to matriculate into their higher education programs. Goodwin is not one of those $60,000/year private schools with dorms that rival Manhattan lofts and dining services that are Zagat rated. The school is a practical place to get an education, often while you are working. They teach skills. The student demographic is different, but it is what we need in a world of overpriced higher education.

Bravo to Goodwin for taking on the manufacturing skills challenge. The launch is based around the concept of accreditation. I almost passed out when they said they were going to introduce the “European style” of apprenticeship/journeyman programs. Still popular in the construction trades, that model died in Connecticut in the early 1980’s. It WAS as American model for decades. That is how my uncle Steven learned. That is how several of our longtime key associates learned. When the U.S. gave up on manufacturing, so did the education world. Everyone is supposed to go to college…and do what?! When we get 600 applications for a low paying clerical office job opening and no applications for a high paying skilled machinist job opening, what does that say about the qualifications of the workforce? What does it say about the stigma attached to manufacturing?

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Even the state of Sonora, Mexico gets it. Horst Engineering operates a maquiladora in Guaymas. Sonora. They covet high-tech manufacturing jobs, particularly in the aerospace and medical industries. They have trade schools with technician certification and they expose kids to manufacturing at a young age. The manufacturing resurgence is a huge part of Mexico’s comeback. Yet, while we have grown in Mexico, we have also grown in Connecticut, but it has been painfully hard to do it without a pipeline of trained workers. Horst’s workforce is multi-cultural, which is a good thing. Our founder, was a German immigrant. He understood the European system. You earned your place at the skills table. You just didn’t arrive there and command the pay and respect. You climbed the skills ladder.

Goodwin has developed a strategy. They plan to train manufacturing managers. They plan to offer mentor/mentee training because the private sector is full of incumbent workers without formal educator skills. They will offer web-based training and simulation. They will develop partnerships with the same government, quasi-government, and non-profit organizations that I mentioned. More importantly, they will develop partnerships with the private sector. That is why I crossed town to participate in the kickoff session. It may have been postponed twice because of our crazy snow-filled winter, but that doesn’t matter, I’m rooting for them to make this work.

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Some past posts on the topic of manufacturing skills and workforce development:


2 Responses to “The Manufacturing Skills Challenge & Goodwin College”

  1. 1 axzz3AlU7y3PY Trackback on 20 August 2014 at 9:41 pm
  2. 2 axzz3AliYoinY Trackback on 21 August 2014 at 4:15 pm

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