May the 'force be with us all.

Author:McKenna, Joseph F.
Position:First cut

Ask manufacturers to name key metrics to success and you'll often hear "product innovation" and "low-cost production." No surprise, right?

Fact is, though, what guarantees the success of those factors is people. As the new edition of The Facts of Modern Manufacturing points out, "it is the high-performance work force that drives product innovation and the ability to produce high quality products at low costs."

The white paper, issued by the National Association of Manufacturers, then tacks on this caveat: "So the shortage of skilled workers in manufacturing poses a triple threat unless we find ways to fill the skills gap and build a better pipeline of new, skilled workers."

In other words--to mangle a line from Star Wars--if we want the 'force to be with us in the future, we have to prepare it now.

Our cousins at the American Welding Society (AWS) understand the challenge and are responding accordingly. AWS is working with the government, industry groups, and a consortium of colleges to increase the number of welding technicians to meet the market demands of tomorrow.

Taking the lead in this project is Lorain County Community College in Ohio. This summer, the college near Lake Erie was tapped as the project leader for the $4.9 million National Science Foundation (NSF) program to establish a National Center for Welding Education and Training.

"The welding industry in the United States is economically large, technically diverse, and has well-documented needs. This industry considers education and training in advanced methods and techniques for welding technicians essential to United States competitiveness in advanced manufacturing," says Elizabeth J. Teles, lead program director for the Advanced Technological Education program at the NSF. "Lorain County Community College is well positioned to lead this national effort in welding...

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