Manufacturers laud certification for skilled production workers

Sept. 28, 2006
NAM’s president, John Engler, says the shortage of skilled workers and a looming skills gap are the biggest challenges facing U.S. manufacturing.
OFFICIALS OF THE National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), labor unions, and American corporations jointly are touting the value of—and promoting support for—a  new, nationally-recognized certification program for skilled production technicians, developed by the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council (MSSC).

In announcing support for the initiative, NAM’s president, John Engler, says the shortage of skilled workers and a looming skills gap are the biggest challenges facing U.S. manufacturing. “In survey after survey, our members tell us they are having real difficulty finding qualified applicants," stated Engler. "We believe this new certification program will help address this by making it clear to workers what skills they need to work in manufacturing, and at the same time enable manufacturers to identify applicants who have the requisite skills.”

According to the NAM’s 2005 Skills Gap Report, 90% of respondents to a survey acknowledged a moderate to severe shortage of qualified skilled production employees including machinists, operators, craft workers, distributors and technicians. Engineers and scientists are also in short supply.

“There are two important problems the MSSC system addresses,” said Keith Romig of the United Steelworkers, and chair of the MSSC’s labor caucus. “The first is that many workers in our industries do have the skills they need to perform their jobs at a high level. What they lack is any formal means of certifying the fact, either to their current employers or to prospective future employers. Our educational system is not training a sufficient number of new workers in these vital industrial skills.”

The skills learned in the MSSC certification program will help to increase productivity and innovation in all manufacturing sectors, added James McCaslin, president and COO, Harley-Davidson Motor Co, and chair of MSSC’s board of directors. “The program will provide highly skilled workers who are flexible, agile and able to meet future manufacturing needs,” he says.

John Rauschenberger, manager of personnel research and development for Ford Motor Co., adds that as the lack of workforce competence grows as a serious challenge to industry, nationally-recognized certification will provide a basis for documenting competency across all sectors. “This unique system is the definitive nationwide program for creating a much larger pool of production workers with strong cross-cutting, multidisciplinary competencies that has the flexibility to adjust to rapid change,” Rauschenberger said.

The officials agreed that MSSC’s industry-led and federally-recognized skill standards remain the most authoritative and comprehensive definition of the skills and knowledge needed in manufacturing today, and believe the MSSC system will be a major benefit for manufacturers both large and small who require competent employees to remain competitive.