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It’s not every day one is invited to attend an event at the White House in Washington, D.C.
However, last week, I had the opportunity to do just that on behalf of IPC. During that event, White House Senior Adviser Ivanka Trump praised IPC, among others, for joining in a nationwide, private-sector pledge to create new high-skilled workforce opportunities for more than 6 million Americans over the next five years.
President Trump kicked off the workforce challenge to U.S. businesses in July. As a longtime leader in education and training within the electronics industry, IPC took it as an opportunity to review our existing programs and identify ways to grow and innovate. The result? IPC joined the Pledge to America’s Workers by promising to create new career opportunities for at least 1 million Americans in the electronics industry. IPC’s pledge is backed by millions of dollars in current and planned investments and the support of our 2,500 U.S. member organizations.
We’re doing this because the chronic shortage of skilled workers is the top business challenge facing the U.S. electronics industry. We estimate that there are more than 10,000 unfilled positions in our industry today. Our workforce is aging and retiring faster than we can hire replacements. More than two-thirds of our members report that their inability to find skilled workers is limiting their growth. Too often, today’s workers lack essential knowledge and skills including math, basic technology skills, and problem-solving.
The pledge is based on the simple premise that employers—individually and collectively—have the primary obligation to understand and address their own workforce needs. They need not take up the task alone, but they cannot wait for others to lead.
There are many steps that companies and associations in the private sector can take. At IPC, we are expanding our education, training and certification programs for both existing workers and younger adults and students, providing valuable credentials that will lead to new career opportunities. We’re also working to create more than 1,000 new “earn-and-learn” opportunities through a network of electronics companies, universities, and community colleges. We’re spreading the word that many noble, “cool,” and lucrative careers can be had by those who gain technical knowledge and experience in the electronics field.
While no one has a crystal ball, we do know that the jobs of the future will be very different from the jobs of today. We can choose to fear this change, as many do, or we can embrace it by leading and investing in innovation and education.
It’s important to remember that advanced manufacturing, which relies heavily on robotics and precision automation, is revitalizing the U.S. industrial base. The workers in these cutting-edge facilities have less hands-on interaction with manual tools and greater reliance on computer-managed machinery. That makes manufacturing cleaner and safer than it was in the past, but it also places new skills requirements on workers.
In that vein, IPC has convened a team of electronics industry experts that is currently working to identify the skills and competencies needed to perform every role in the electronics industry over the next 10 years. We are redesigning our credentialing programs to align with these findings and to empower individuals at every educational level to enter our industry and upskill.
Just as other high-tech sectors have expanded their worker credentialing, so too will we. In this environment, credentials become the key to employment and career advancement. Our task as an industry is to make our credentialing programs accessible, stackable, and scalable to ensure the most robust talent pipeline possible.
Overcoming the skilled workforce shortage is a collaborative effort that will require stronger relationships among companies, associations, schools, and technical training programs. That collaboration, however, is already on the rise, and together we can develop the workforce needed to compete in the global economy.