Manufacturing automation has been doing the heavy lifting to improve productivity in the United States while the country’s educational systems continue to have disturbingly low productivity. After talking with management of many manufacturing companies, reviewing surveys and statistics, it is obvious to me that this situation is dramatically out of control.Frankly, I'm surprised that the inadequate math and reading/writing/communication skills are as low down the totem pole as they are. I guess automation has gone a long way towards eliminating these skills as requirements for the workplace.
The educational system in the United States is just not getting the job done. And this is a major constraint on finding people suitable for basic manufacturing jobs let alone people to work with the technology required for manufacturing to be competitive on world markets. Further, this is a severe limitation hampering United States companies from designing leadership automation systems and creating machines. Recent information illustrates that the U.S. education system cannot turn money alone into positive results - with billions of dollars pumped into education over 40 years. The "No Child Left Behind" initiatives are a decade old. An investment of over $80 billion in federal stimulus since 2009 that was intended to lift student performance quickly has resulted in no significant gain.
The Manufacturing Institute report, "Boiling point - The skills gap in U.S. manufacturing," says that seventy-four percent of respondents indicated workforce shortages or skills deficiencies are having a significant impact on manufacturers' ability to expand operations or improve productivity. These jobs require the most training, and are traditionally among the hardest manufacturing jobs to fill with existing talent. Survey respondents punctuated the most serious skills deficiencies with existing employees.
- Inadequate problem-solving skills - 52%
- Lack of basic technical training (degree, industry certification or vocational training) - 43%
- Inadequate basic employability skills (attendance timeliness, work ethic, etc.) - 40%
- Inadequate technology/computer skills - 36%
- Inadequate math skills - 30%
- Inadequate reading/writing/communicating skills - 29%
Drew Greenblatt, President & Owner, Marlin Steel, USA (www.marlinwire.com):I am reminded of the valedictorian's graduation speech I fisked in 2010, wherein she proclaimed that a college degree, not a high-school diploma was the "... paper document that certifies that I am capable of work."
"It is dispiriting what's going on with our system…we have high school graduates that don't know how to read a tape measure, can't do basic math, don't know how to do simple geometry," said Greenblatt. "They don't know what a radius is, what a diameter is…but they have a high school degree. It is unacceptable, we should be furious because we are paying big bucks and not getting the quality."
"I am on the executive board of the National Association of Manufacturers and they are starting a national program called Skills Certification," said Greenblatt. "It is a national certification and if you pass the test it is a portable certificate that shows you have the basic competence to work in a factory. I think that will improve the stock of our employees...right now the diploma from a high school is not worth the paper it's printed on."
Bearing this in mind, it means that the total output of primary and secondary education in this country is a population unsuited for working in the industrialized world.
I think that may have been the only thing she got right in her whole speech.
The problems with the United States educational system is analogous to a dying business with investors that think throwing money at the problems will fix it. Unfortunately government money seems to mindlessly flow into education programs. I believe there are fundamental structural, process, and management problems with the educational system that need to be sorted out. It is unclear how this can happen with the layers of bureaucracy.In short, it can't. The layers of bureaucracy aren't interested in fixing the problem.
But they are interested in keeping the money flowing.
It is a sad commentary on the education system when the National Association of Manufacturers resorts to a Skills Certification System since the educational system is ineffective. All we need now is for some educators to get involved and ruin this.Oh, it's effective. Just not at producing educated people. That's not its job.
In 1972, the United Negro College Fund coined the phrase, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste." This in a nutshell describes the problem for the majority of U.S. citizens due to the ineffective educational system.
Reengineering the U.S. educational system may be the most important challenge for manufacturing and the country. Government and bureaucracy continue to be an obstacle to meaningful change. There seems to be too many sacred cows. I was on a school board a number of years ago that was wresting with teacher quality. With my industry background, I suggested using statistical quality control analysis based on student outcomes. When I explained the concept of to them, I became a persona non grata (unwelcome person)!Nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.
Somehow we have to fix this problem or the United States will continue to fall behind the rest of the world.
UPDATE: At PJ Media, Has a Century of Progressive Education Turned Us Into Obedient Sheep? with reference to John Taylor Gatto and Ayn Rand's The Comprachicos.