Developing career pathways and providing real-world learning experiences are critical to filling the advanced manufacturing skills gap

Scaling workforce readiness through manufacturing expertise


Developing career pathways and providing real-world learning experiences are critical to filling the advanced manufacturing skills gap

The COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected US employment, with significant impact to the manufacturing sector. According to Deloitte’s recent “2021 manufacturing outlook,” US manufacturing faces a long recovery to match its post-2008 recession momentum. And, as we recover, manufacturing may never look the same, with companies adapting to hybrid work environments and expecting more agility from the workforce.

Pre-pandemic, US manufacturers were already challenged by the rapid pace of innovation, needing to constantly upskill and reskill for new and emerging 21st century jobs, and a well-documented overall shortage of prepared workers. While we can all agree that today’s manufacturing workforce is challenged, what can be done that will have the greatest positive impact?

The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) Manufacturing Technology (ManTech) Program in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering went to work on the problem. With Department of Defense Manufacturing Innovation Institutes (DoD MIIs) already established and active, and given that part of their mission is to accelerate the growth of the next generation workforce, it was a natural fit to develop a national strategy with local implementation driven by six of the DoD manufacturing institutes.

While each of the institutes may approach workforce needs differently, some at K-12, some at the post-secondary education level, others with the incumbent workforce or a blend of multiple audiences, all are raising awareness and building skills for the next generation manufacturing sector.

ManTech authorized a $2M program through a Special Call to create impactful local workforce development programs that prepare the workforce for careers in emerging technologies that align to the technology focus of the DoD MIIs. Institutes were encouraged to develop solutions that either deliver a geographically focused jumpstart program, and/or create digital learning content that helps students see their future in the advanced manufacturing workforce.

Tracy Frost, Director of the OSD ManTech Program, said, “We are delighted to actively provide stewardship for these important workforce development programs. We know we’re having an impact when we see demand for these programs growing year over year.”

These six institutes aim to give kids the knowledge they need to consider education and career pathways to enter the agile advanced manufacturing workforce. Closing the manufacturing skills gap is of paramount importance to the economic security of our nation.

Laura Ascione