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Government working with colleges and manufacturers to create apprenticeships:

The Obama administration is investing $600 million into apprenticeship programs. The idea is to get employers and community colleges to work more closely together in creating programs that train Americans for skilled jobs that pay well. This program is needed because millions of Americans are still out of work but skilled workers are needed to fill about 500,000 manufacturing jobs that are available. These jobs pay from $30,000 to over $100,000 per year.

The reason so many manufacturing jobs cannot be easily filled is that the technical knowledge required is beyond the abilities of most Americans without specialized knowledge. The days of these skills being passed down from father to son or from the senior machinist to apprentice were mostly over. Another problem is that many high schools have eliminated vocational classes such as machine shop, wood shop and welding.

Compounding the problem is that so much of the equipment used in manufacturing has become technologically complicated, that on the job training is no longer sufficient to train workers in a timely and affordable way. Much of the machinery now has CNC computerized controls that need to be understood to be properly used. And the better paying job requires the ability to program the computerized controls. Add to that all the new OSHA safety procedures and the necessity to be able to use sophisticated quality control measuring equipment.

It can be an overwhelming amount of technical knowledge to learn for an average high school graduate. This is where the high schools can help by expanding the existing STEM program of science, technology, engineering and math to include more students. STEM is an existing $170 million program that is separate from the new $600 million apprenticeship program. Hopefully the high school STEM program will bleed over to reach the entire student body, not just the more gifted students.

But neither employees nor manufacturers can afford to pay for all the expensive training required to fill the skills gap. This is where the new government apprenticeship program works with the schools that work with the employers to design and implement more efficient training courses to quickly get workers the skills they need to fill the available manufacturing jobs that currently exist. Not the jobs of the past.

Will this help the USA compete with China? That should not be the goal. Instead we should look at the success that Germany has had by focusing on higher end manufacturing. Or, maybe, instead of trying to copy Germany we should really try to set a new standard of our own.

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