Friday, February 26, 2010

Hot Rods and Hand Tools: Saving the Skilled Trades in America

For the first time in the history of the United States we are seeing a long term shortage of skilled trades. These skilled trades include the industrial Mechanics, Machinists, and Electricians who have kept American facilities producing the wealth to which we have become accustom. This has been perpetuated by three compounding circumstances.

·         The common Baby Boomer myth that everyone’s kids have to go to university to be successful. (In actuality the skilled trades have a better lifestyle and higher income than many college graduates)
·         The movement from working on hot rods in the garage with your father to playing video games or working on computers.
·         And most recently, the inevitable baby boomer retirement, which is waning due to the economy, but still is a concern.

Below are six elements that can become part of your solution:

1.  Create clear documented business processes that everyone can understand. This will insure a smooth transitions, continuous improvement and employee involvement (which is key to the new generation)
2. Training done correctly can be both a knowledge and a morale boost. Use computer simulations to both enhance the learning experience and verify understanding.
3. Bringing condition sensing technology (Predictive Maintenance Tools) into your realm of maintenance can bring the “cool” back to the skill trades.
4. Capturing and facilitating the use of history in your Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) or Enterprise Asset Management System (EAM) will allow you to retain knowledge from the retiring generation.
5. Mentoring programs supported by the retiring generation can build new generation skills much quicker than the costly trial and error that many apply.
6. Create a Proactive Reliability Culture (many of the new generation don’t want extraordinary overtime and constant reactive firefighting in the facility and instead strive for the more predictable, less stressful world of a proactive reliability culture.)
Many of the core skills of maintenance were learned under the hood of the car but with the influx of technology our young people will also excel if we start planning now and transfer the elements they need to complement the skills they have. This is crucial if we plan to maintain profitable and competitive industry in America.  What are your doing in your facility to save the skilled trades?

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