What skills and knowledge are needed to get a good job in manufacturing? And how can employers know an applicant possesses them?
A new certification system, designed by leading manufacturers, is a stab at answering those questions.
Unveiled this month by the National Association of Manufacturers, the system was designed to help young people or career changers get jobs that pay good wages, and to help employers in manufacturing fill jobs that often stay vacant for lack of qualified prospects.
Using a skills framework developed in 2006 by the U.S. Department of Labor, the NAM defined competencies in four areas that employers in all types of manufacturing need from entry-level employees: academic (such as applied-science skills), personal (such as willingness to learn), workplace (such as applied technology), and industrywide technical competencies such as understanding supply chains.
Mastery will be denoted by earning the National Career Readiness Certificate, designed by the Iowa City-based ACT Inc., with which the NAM teamed up on the new certification system. The ACT’s certificate can be earned by passing its WorkKeys tests, which measure skills in reading, mathematics, and information location.
The NAM’s system envisions that manufacturing job-seekers will pair the ACT certificate with a certification that measures more industry-specific skills. The organization partnered with four groups to coordinate that part of the process.
A pivotal part of the NAM’s vision is to connect the ACT certificate and industry-specific credential with associate of arts degrees by having the system widely embraced by community colleges.
“We want people to be able to go to the front of the line in recruitment, with something that signifies they are ready to be productive on day one,” said Emily S. DeRocco, the president of the Manufacturing Institute, the NAM’s research and education arm.
James F. McKenney, a vice president of the American Association of Community Colleges, said the two-year schools would welcome the chance to align their curricula with the NAM system if they can feel confident that it truly represents the consensus of the manufacturing field.
A version of this article appeared in the March 18, 2009 edition of Education Week