Over 105,000 King County residents currently work in the manufacturing sector, with an astonishing wage rate 122% higher than the county average. Over 40% of the King County manufacturing workforce is over the age of 45 creating a skills gap that widens each year. The Manufacturing Academy recently partnered with South Seattle College and the City of Seattle Office of Economic Development to host a roundtable discussion about industry needs to ensure our curriculum continues to be in line with employer needs.

Manufacturing companies, colleges, and workforce development organizations sent representatives that all contributed to the discussion.This employer meeting was imperative to the success of the Pre-Apprenticeship program to continue providing a diverse pool of manufacturing candidates to industry.

During the discussion, each employer explained the hardships they’re experiencing to compete in the global manufacturing industry.A consistent pipeline of talent in Washington State was a favorable remark amongst all employers and improving the marketing strategy for millennials could not be understated. “There is a big divide between experience with machinists…” said Anne Bosse and Kathy Powers of Orion Industries. “[the problem is] getting the experienced talent to share knowledge with younger machinists.”

The roundtable discussion shifted to the core competencies the Manufacturing Academy is predicated on.There was a unanimous decision on five skills employers look for in potential candidates: team building, resumes, “real world” experience, social skills and safety.

The drought of skilled workers can’t be fully attributed to the lack of technical skills — various factors including substance abuse, criminal history, job hoppers and introvert personality traits all make manufacturing a tough industry to hire for, particularly when there is disproportional amount of retiring employees and new workers entering the workforce.

As the Manufacturing Academy enters its sixth year of training, new discussions centered on the idea – what skillset would be perfect for your company? Manual machining, electrical, lean manufacturing and GD&T (Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing) were the common skills employers want new workers trained in. Quality control, welding and advanced computer skills is also a common trait missing from the new employees.

According to the U.S. Labor Department, “by the year 2020, approximately 30 percent of all jobs will require a post-secondary degree or credential. Experts also project a shortfall of nearly 3 million Americans lacking the post-secondary education required to fill these jobs.” Through pre-apprenticeship programs such as the Manufacturing Academy, our local economy can and will continue to make strides to improve Washington State’s competiveness in the global manufacturing market.