Strengthening manufacturing tops California business priorities

150 150 Ed Coghlan

Steel factory finishing line
Steel finishing at California Steel Industries in Fontana, CA (Credit: CSI, Inc.)

I was playing in a golf tournament last Friday sponsored by the National Tooling and Machining Association in Los Angeles. In between golf shots, some good and some bad, I learned again that this country has a problem and California has an opportunity. And at the awards dinner afterwards (where it should be pointed out that I did not win a trophy), I learned the tournament itself was to raise money for education in their industry. 

The problem is that there aren’t enough skilled manufacturing workers. A California Steel Executive told us about this issue three months ago and I heard a lot more about it last week. The National Association of Manufacturers is hitting this issue on its website, endorsing the concept of a set of portable. “stackable” credentials verifying that basic effectiveness skills and academic skills have been achieved by a job candidate that will allow that candidate to succeed in entry-level jobs in manufacturing.

My host at the tournament, who runs a manufacturing firm in Los Angeles County that makes parts for the aerospace industry, said his biggest challenge isn’t competition for customers, it’s competition for workers. As he said, there are good jobs available in manufacturing. We need to educate people about that, recruit them, train them and then keep them.  

He is not alone.

The California Economic Summit’s most popular initiative was and is workforce development. Over 200 ideas were identified at the Regional Forums and at the Summit itself last month in Santa Clara. This is a huge issue in the state and truly an opportunity for California to assume a leadership role. The Summit’s findings on this issue, and many others, will be announced soon, and the work to fix these problems will continue over the next year or more.. 

It’s not going to be easy, in fact there are a number of challenges that have been identified. But if the state’s economy is going to thrive, we need to create programs that prepare our people for the jobs that exist and will exist in the future. 

To make the point, while last month’s national employment report noted only 69,000 jobs were created, 12,000 of those were in the manufacturing sector. If the economy does start to rebound, manufacturing will ramp up as well. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to make sure that people are trained for those jobs when it does? 

If you have any comments about this issue, please let us know. We’d prefer no commentary on my golf game.


Ed Coghlan

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