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February 17, 2013

Preparing workers for middle-skills jobs

The topic of my last column was the shortage of job applicants possessing middle skills that American manufacturers are facing. Today, I’m writing about what might be done to meet the challenge of filling those middle-skills jobs. As you may recall, a middle-skills job is one that requires more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree. 

In a country as diverse as the United States, a “one size fits all” approach to solving this problem won’t work; there is a mix of solutions and different regions will have to choose what would work best for them. Equally important is the mix of sectors that must come together to build successful public private-partnerships to solve this problem.

Those sectors, and what I think they need to do, are:

1. Education — High school guidance counselors need to become aware of the entire spectrum of post-secondary training options available to high school students. Counselors tend to focus on college as the best alternative and ignore, or worse, are unaware of other opportunities. At a Manufacturing Day held at Clinton Community College, many counselors openly expressed that they were unaware that middle-skill jobs offered careers with livable wages and benefits.

BOCES must continue to reposition itself in the minds of students and, more importantly, parents that BOCES provides as good or better academic training as a “traditional” high school. Additionally, BOCES needs to take a hard look at the vocational training it offers to ensure that they are training in occupations for which employers are hiring. The economy needs fewer cosmetologists and more CNC operators.

Clinton Community College offers a range of courses in technical training including the National Association of Manufacturers endorsed Manufacturing Skills Standards Certification (MSSC). The MSSC focuses on the core skills and knowledge required of front-line production workers. A student successfully completing the course receives the nationally recognized Certified Production Technician (CPT) certificate. The training is appropriate for both job seekers and for those already employed.

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