Advanced manufacturing is characterized by NAM as "making extensive use of computer, high precision, and information technologies integrated with a high performance workforce in a production system capable of furnishing a heterogeneous mix of products in small or large volumes with both the efficiency of mass production and the flexibility of custom manufacturing in order to respond quickly to customer demands."

 

More and more of existing manufacturing is transitioning to approaches characterized as 'advanced manufacturing' and to using complex equipment and processes to increase production capacity and efficiency and remain competitive. As a result, the skills levels required in these industries is increasing as industry requires better qualified workers to manage the equipment and processes effectively.  There are a number of barriers to be able to work in this sector; however the Advanced Manufacturing Alliance has a plan to address these barriers so that unemployed or underemployed people are able to become qualified to meet the growing need for advanced manufacturing workers.

To be able to provide a high performance workforce to industries in North Carolina, the Alliance is adopted an approach that will ensure workers have the necessary competencies in key areas.  These competencies include those to enter the workplace that include personal effectiveness, academic competencies, and workplace competencies.

Additionally, industry competencies are taught in partnership with local industry; both those that are specific to the industry sector as well as industry-wide technical competencies.  Finally, specialization competencies are those that occur within the specific occupations in an industry.  

A survey of 65 industries found that the education, training and credentials required to enter the jobs available currently and in future projections will vary slightly by process but will require higher skills, particularly in mathematics and critical thinking, than positions in previous years. The minimum required for technician jobs posted is a high school diploma and one year of experience plus “soft skills,” or the Personal Effectiveness Competencies of the Advanced Manufacturing Competency Model - and usually a Career Readiness Certificate (CRC). 

But projections from the NC Employment Security Commission indicate an increase over previous years in positions requiring Associate degrees (Industrial Engineering & Mechanical Engineering Technicians, Medical Equipment Repairers, Chemical Technicians, etc.) and post secondary vocational training (Avionics Technicians, Electrical/Electronic Installers- Repairers, Computer/Automated Teller/Office Machine Repair). Industry employers are also requiring a specialized credential. Statewide, the Career Readiness Certificate is becoming accepted as evidence of required skills but more and more, professional industrial credentials will become a requirement as the complexity of the manufacturing processes increase.

The survey of employers in the Alliance and of current job openings posted by the NC Employment Security Commission throughout the state finds that every job in a manufacturing related field requires experience, which can create a significant barrier to employment. That requirement ranges from as little as six months to as much as five years with most requiring a minimum of two years' experience.

Consequently, the Alliance is working with industry partners to develop on-the-job training and experience through internships for student completing the appropriate coursework and training and obtaining their credentials.

A truly significant barrier to seeking employment in an increasingly technologically advanced field is the lack of a credential. The need for parents or caregivers to get back to work quickly after a job loss often necessitates leaving the classroom early before receipt of a credential.  Alliance members report that the returning adult students will stay only long enough to gain the skills needed to qualify for the first available job opening because they are seeking the quickest possible route back to employment. Flexible online coursework by Alliance colleges will allow people who are not credentialed to continue working while advancing their educations and qualifications to be able to obtain the necessary credentials to work in advanced manufacturing.

 Read more on how training provided by Advanced Manufacturing Alliance colleges can land you a job and prepare you for a career in this sector.