Original Posting (July 23rd 2016):
Cindy Cookson, Advanced Manufacturing Engineering Manager at Gates Corporation | CompanyWeek 

All credit goes to Cindy Cookson for writing this blog, “Empowering creators: Solving the human capital puzzle in manufacturing”. The original posting can be found in the link above.

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Five years ago, Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO of Gallup, published the results of his organization’s worldwide survey on the
importance of employment in the global economy in a very thought-provoking book entitled The Coming Jobs War. Clifton summarizes the book in one sentence: “What the whole world wants is a good job.” Through their research, Clifton and his Gallup team discovered that a good job is the number-one social value for people worldwide.

Concurrently, the National Association of Manufacturers reports, “Over the next decade, 2 million [jobs] are expected to go unfilled due to the skills gap.”

These two simple facts frame the challenge of human capital, one of eight categories that make up the Conexus 2016 Manufacturing and Logistics Report Card. This report card gave Colorado a C in this category.

“No factor matters more to businesses than the quality and availability of labor,” states the report. The CAMA membership could not agree more! We have started a movement that is designed to provide skills that job seekers need to fill the required and open positions. We encourage all manufacturers to collaborate with the education system to build the workforce we need instead of simply being consumers of their product.

In his book, Clifton goes on to state, “Public school superintendents and university presidents need to think beyond core curricula and their graduation rates. Students don’t want to merely graduate; they want an education that results in a good job.” However, it is unfair to place the human capital burden and the task of closing the skills gap solely on the education system. The governor, the legislature, the educator, the business owner, the machinist, the design engineer, and the family of the student need to recognize their own decisive role in this complicated process.

We at Gates understand this responsibility. As one of the oldest manufacturing companies based in Colorado, Gates Corporation has a role to play in building the human capital necessary to continue to develop and produce quality products for our customers. One of the steps we’ve taken to help prepare and entice the next generation of manufacturing professionals has been to partner with CAMA to develop and deliver Empowering Creators, an experiential learning immersive exercise designed to expose 8th graders to the numerous career paths in manufacturing.

Yet, no single program or entity can do this. Our strength — what sets Colorado apart from the other 49 states graded in the Conexus report — is a new mindset where we recognize that our education system will teach the theory, but we, as manufacturers, must provide the practice. To succeed, we need a trained and skilled workforce. You wouldn’t expect a contractor to deliver a quality product without collaborating in the design. The same holds true for building our workforce.

Internships and apprenticeships are the best examples of this process in action. This ‘learn while you earn’ approach is as win-win for industry and our future workforce: students are learning valuable career and life skills while employers are getting productive value out of trainees and benefitting from fresh perspectives in their workplaces.

Furthermore, we’re stopping this inefficient and expensive cycle where we train students in school, and then we train them again in their first job. At Gates, we believe there is a better way, which is why we’ve partnered with CAMA. CAMA is recognized as an ApprenticeshipUSA LEADER by the U.S. Department of Labor and together, we are eager to help you create an apprenticeship program for your current and future employees.

If you don’t believe you’re for internships and apprenticeships, as a manufacturer, you still have a crucial role to play. You can host tours for high school students. Student facility tours build awareness of manufacturing career paths and transform perceptions of the industry.

Manufacturing has transformed from the days of dumb, dirty, and dangerous to today’s clean, smart, and automated facilities. Let’s show everyone this by inviting them to see firsthand the dynamic opportunities available in our industry.

You can also sponsor a CAMA Cardboard Challenge for your local elementary school. Cardboard Challenges are designed to inspire and motivate K-5 students to put down the remote control and video games, design something with their minds and then build it with their hands.

Or partner with Gates and CAMA to host an Empowering Creators program. Your employees will have fun helping 8th grade students compete to design and build a product that best meets customer specifications.

What ideas do you have? We are always open to new program ideas that instill a passion for creation and build awareness of manufacturing careers.

Is the C Grade that the Conexus 2016 Manufacturing and Logistics Report Card gave Colorado for its efforts to develop human capital a fair grade?

Assigning a letter grade to such a complex issue is risky, so rather than answering a question, consider this. What part are you willing to play in creating a world-class workforce in Colorado? Working with CAMA and Gates, you and your organization can be a part of the solution.

Cindy Cookson, advanced manufacturing engineering manager with Gates Corporation, serves as the chair of CAMA’s Statewide Workforce Committee.

Conexus Indiana, a private-sector initiative focused on making Indiana a global manufacturing and logistics leader, recently released the 2016 Manufacturing Logistics Report Card for the United States. The report graded states in several different categories relevant to the manufacturing sector. This response is the third in a five-part series examining Colorado’s grades; read part one here and part two here.