Germany Exports Training
Text by Brandon O’Halloran
We all know the problem: Amidst a terrible job market, U.S. manufacturers are finding it difficult to fill thousands of well-paying jobs. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, U.S. manufacturers are exploring aspects of Germany’s dual education system in an attempt to form programs to meet their demand for highly skilled labor. Companies are teaming up with local community colleges to educate and train students. These programs range from 2.5 to 3.5 years and consist of attending classes and on-the-job training. The students receive pay for their hands-on work and are likely to get full-time jobs at the company upon completion of the program.
Some companies are reluctant to make the short-term investment needed to successfully prepare these students. Siemens, the electronics and electrical engineering powerhouse, spends approximately $165,000 per apprentice in its new three-year mechatronics training program. “We’ve learned it is better to build our own workforce instead of just relying on the market.” By being self-reliant, companies can avoid the cost and effort of months-long, nationwide searches usually needed to fill highly skilled job openings.
A U.S. adaptation of the German dual education system could be a big step forward for the U.S. manufacturing labor force. If skilled labor were readily available domestically, U.S. companies would not have to seek talent abroad. A collective effort is needed. Manufacturing companies need to consider the long term in creating a more reliable supply of skilled workers. Policymakers should emphasize funding toward training programs to help garner interest among young people and retain skills among older workers. The general public needs to adopt a new mindset about the manufacturing sector and the critical diversity that manufacturing jobs bring to a country’s labor market.