Community colleges, trade schools and industry credentials are trying to close the manufacturing “skills gap”. Programs can last anywhere from a couple months to two years to teach candidates what they need to get a job in the industry. When we talk to manufacturers hiring for entry-level positions, they say it’s much simpler.
“I don’t need people to have a degree or certificate. I need people who can use a tape measure and learn how to use my equipment.” Craig, CEO // Electrical OEM
This may seem counter-intuitive at first. But consider for a moment the possibility that education, both primary and secondary, is over shooting employers needs at the entry level. While the level of intellectual learning advances every year, the hands-on and practical skills necessary for working productively in your first or second job is neglected.
At Skill Scout, we focus on capturing and portraying the actual skills needed to do a job. We build simple activities for candidates to demonstrate and experience the relevant skills. Most of these skills do not require candidates to go through extensive training or preparation.
Here are 5 skills our manufacturing partners request:
1. USING A TAPE MEASURE. We all learned how to read a tape measure in 4th grade, right? Well, many of us have grown rusty without practice. Building pallets, measuring boxes and packing trucks are some of the activities that tape measures are used for in entry-level manufacturing jobs. When using a tape measure is not a daily job task, this basic skill is still important to learning more advanced measurement techniques.
2. MECHANICAL TROUBLESHOOTING. This may sound hard to nail down, but a brief exercise can give great insight to how a candidate approaches problem solving. Manufacturers are always looking for candidates who have the ability to think critically and fix problems that arise during the workday. This can mean un-jamming a machine or more complex diagnostics.
We’ve created a simple machine that allows candidates to try their hand at solving an issue. This skill can also be practiced at home with small household appliances, cars or even bicycles.
3. PACKING ORDERS. Nearly every manufacturer has an entry-level position responsible for preparing products for shipment. Companies love to promote this position into other areas of the business. It tells them a lot about the employee’s attention to detail, ability to read and follow directions, and perform basic math.
Packing orders may seem like a simple task - but it is more challenging than it looks. Packers must make sure the right parts with the right quantity are packed properly in the right box and labeled to go to the right customer. Candidates with an eye for detail do well in this skill with little preparation!
4. INSPECTING QUALITY. Testing for quality before products go out is key to a manufacturer’s reputation. Sometimes, the difference between a product that passes inspection and one that doesn’t can’t be seen by the naked eye. When we recruit for a manufacturer, we put real products into candidates’ hands and let them take a shot at detecting imperfections. They use precision measurement tools and simple visual inspection.
5. TRACKING INVENTORY. Keeping track of what is in stock, what needs to be ordered, and what may be missing is a key part of any successful company. It involves counting items,comparing that number to the expected or need number of items, and organizing and inputting that information in a shareable form. Candidates need little preparation to do well at this skill. To see whether a candidate would be a good fit to do inventory, we skip the math test and have them actually count and write down inventory into a log book.
There is a skills gap. Current education is over shooting the needs -- companies need something different. At Skill Scout we are trying to create ways to serve this market. But we are also going to share what we know and help others -- community colleges and training organizations, focus on what companies need.
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Elena and Abby bring you innovative stories from the workplace.