Making Workers More Competitive


High tech industry is seeing a resurgence and this will offer better jobs for people who have the training.
High tech industry is seeing a resurgence and this will offer better jobs for people who have the training.

The demise of manufacturing in the United States has not been any great secret. That demise has been tied to a number of situations. These include high unemployment, inadequately trained workers taking position in low paying jobs, and growth of service sector occupations that are normally lower paying than the traditional manufacturing jobs of years past. Robert Reich suggests a solution that may make workers more competitive.

The problem

A new type of manufacturing is rising in the U.S. It is high-tech manufacturing. Medical devices, lab testing equipment, and aircraft electronics are just some of the industries that have come back to America. This new manufacturing generally requires an employee who has a higher level of education and training than what was needed in the past. That is why we hear about companies that today that are unable to fill jobs. Most of these workers have no training in these advanced areas and little recourse to get it. Many companies are hesitant to make the financial investment to train them as well. So where are these workers supposed to come from?

The German Model

Most companies look to the rising generation to be the workers to fill these jobs. However, many parents want their children to go to college and get an education in order to get a good job. However, many of these students do not finish that degree program, one that they should have not started in the first place. They then are subpar workers lacking the skill sets need to be effective and productive in the jobs that exist today. These are jobs that pay good wages because they require skilled workers.

I don’t often agree with former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, but in the September 1, 2013 issue of Parade Magazine he wrote a brief article that offered a solution to this problem. He referred to it as the German Model. Germany used to have apprenticeship programs, today they two-year degree programs in manufacturing education. What makes this different from a “trade school” type of program is that the first year is actually the last year of high school. The extended education is then only one more year beyond high school and then the student is prepare to take on a high-tech, well paying manufacturing job.

Reich says, and I agree, “This education reconfiguration could solve two problems at once – and strengthen the economy.” If you are currently in HR or management that is in this arena you need to be talking to your local school systems, both secondary and post-secondary, and talking up this model. It is time for business to step and provide direction to education.

Image courtesy of koko-tewan at

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