Strategically Approaching Workforce Development

Strategically Approaching Workforce Development

This piece was originally published in the August 2017 issue of electroindustry.

Jonathan Stewart, Government Relations Manager, NEMA

Mr. Stewart leads NEMA’s Workforce Development Strategic Initiative.

Good help is hard to find, and it will only get harder as NEMA members invent game-changing technologies and incorporate them into the industrial process.

Where will tomorrow’s workers come from, and who will teach them the skills they need to excel? Even more fundamentally, will they even want to work in this industry? NEMA is looking for answers through its 2018 Workforce Development Strategic Initiative (SI). It has three distinct pathways.

Industry Promotion

The manufacturing industry in general—and NEMA’s corner specifically—faces a branding crisis: tomorrow’s workforce either doesn’t know anything about us or what they do know (or think they know) they don’t like. We need to change that. Electro-manufacturing is a vibrant, dynamic industry where students can prepare for careers that pay well. Starting in 2018, NEMA will develop digital tools that members can use to promote the industry. This component will be ready for National Manufacturing Day 2018.


Although the apprenticeship model is used globally to develop expertise in the skilled trades, it is less common in the United States. Developing one takes more resources than many NEMA members can spare. In 2018, NEMA will facilitate development of an apprenticeship program that can be locally tailored by member companies to recruit and train high school students.

Curriculum Sharing

NEMA members face a common challenge: recruiting qualified candidates for a skilled position when local colleges don’t offer relevant coursework. The SI’s curriculum-sharing component may offer a solution, based on the assumption that a community college somewhere has a great curriculum for that very position. NEMA will conduct a feasibility study of a curriculum-sharing framework. It will help identify an in-demand curriculum conducted by one community college and procure the right to share it with others. Such a hub-and-spoke model could be a critical step in addressing the recruiting challenge.

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