As trade school enrollment jumps, so too will manufacturing

07.31.2012


As trade school enrollment jumps, so too will manufacturing
As trade school enrollment jumps, so too will manufacturing

Trade schools all over the country are reporting huge increases in enrollment as news of the demand for high-skill workers spreads, which will lead to a major jump in manufacturing staffing once these students enter the workforce, CNN reports.

According to the news source, American factories are benefiting from a manufacturing renaissance as more companies begin to move their manufacturing operations back from overseas and increase production on U.S. soil. This factory rebirth has led to an immediate demand for highly skilled workers who can handle machining and tool-and-die making. What's more, these jobs are increasingly weaving in computers and technology, leading many to attend trade schools to learn the ins and outs of such manufacturing duties.

Officials from trade schools around the nation say their manufacturing programs are swelling in response to the demand, with students ranging from young people first entering the workforce mid-career employees looking for work after the recession. But it isn't just the opportunity for work that is attracting so many students to trade schools, it's also the pay. Some of these high-skill positions start as high as $60,000 per year, the media outlet stated.

The surge in enrollment has actually posed never-before-seen challenges for many of the schools, who are already at or beyond capacity. This has led school officials to hire more instructors and to seek out additional funding necessary to purchase new equipment on which students can train. These hindrances, along with the time it takes fully train a factory worker - roughly a year - suggest the labor shortage in the manufacturing industry could continue for another few years, however the pipeline is certainly being filled.

The manufacturing industry has changed significantly in the last two decades, and now requires workers to be well versed in computer-aided design and engineering, said Sandra Krebsbach, executive director of the American Technical Education Association.

At the Dunwoody College of Technology in Minnesota, students can learn about tool-and-die, computer-aided and robotics manufacturing. This year, the school expects a class of about 120 students.

"That's the highest level of enrollees we've had in 15 years," said E.J. Daigle, the school's director of robotics and manufacturing.

The soaring demand for workers and the ensuing applicants for the school has led Dunwoody to develop a fast-track learning program for the first time ever, allowing students to receive training and find a manufacturing job all in a 6-month period.

"Most of these fast-track students are older, in their 30s and 40s, who can't take two years off to go to school," Daigle said.

Although manufacturing activity in the U.S. has been growing at an anemic rate for the past few months, the most recent data from the Institute for Supply Management in Chicago recently reported an increase in regional factory output, Bloomberg reports.

According to the the index, Midwest manufacturing activity jumped to 53.7, the highest reading since April and up from 52.9 in June. The media outlet stated that this jump in activity may be attributed to automakers that are rebuilding their inventories as sales pick up.

Harm Bandholz, chief U.S. economist at UniCredit Group in New York, stated that the manufacturing sector is showing "modest improvement," and that it's "not that bad."

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, manufacturing employment grew by 11,000 jobs in June, led by positions in the automotive sector, which added 7,000 new jobs.