Back to School? How OEMs Can Close the Global Skills Gap

closeup of an engineer holding a hardhat with buildings in the background | closing the global skills gap

As we return to school this year, we are reminded of the futures that our children and teens are working towards. Schooling sets the foundation for them to be productive members of the workforce, to have a career and be successful, and to ultimately feel rewarded in a field that interests them and build a future off of that.

But how are schools defining careers and success? What does it mean for a high school student to start down the path of a career and be successful? For the last decade or so, the defining measure of having a career and being successful has been focused on attending college and following a predefined education plan to get a career in the industry of your choosing.

What has been often overlooked are the fantastic career opportunities that are offered in the skilled trades. Skilled trades refer to hands-on jobs that require specialized training and expertise in a particular craft or technical field. These jobs are usually focused on practical tasks like building, fixing, or maintaining things. Skilled trades cover a wide range of professions and industries, medical, automotive, building and construction, and more.

Oftentimes, kids that are nearing graduation are unaware that the skilled trades path is even an option for them. These fields are not presented as a career but more as a job. This is simply not the case. Students who choose this path can make a career out of the skilled trades, and the truth is that the demand for this type of labor is HUGE, posing the opportunity for very successful, comfortable careers for them as a result.

This lack of recruitment into skilled trades, such as mechanics, electricians, vehicle service, and medical and dental technicians, has led to what is known as the Global Skill Gap. This gap defines the discrepancy between skills that are desperately needed by employers in these industries and the number of competent workers that are coming out of education institutes and trade schools.

As the automotive industry races ahead with innovation, the skill gap becomes an ever-more pressing concern. With seasoned professionals retiring and new technologies demanding specialized skills, OEMs, vehicle service companies, and other skilled trades find themselves struggling to find qualified talent.

Recruiting to Fill the Gap

Without the appropriate intervention in education, exposure, and recruitment, this gap will continue to widen, creating a vast detrimental impact on the way society as we know it continues to function. Traditional recruitment methods often fall short in attracting younger individuals, who may not yet be fully aware of the vast opportunities within the industry. So what can we do to help bridge this skill gap with the younger generations?

Exploring the Options

In a broad sense, high school is divided between those going down the college path and those going into the trades. But with very few exceptions, the college path is the default expectation for most graduating seniors. The flaw in this approach is that the college path is full of uncertainty for a lot of students. These kids are often choosing something that sounds interesting but that they know very little about. Once they’ve chosen this major, enrolled in classes, and started down the path of this career – they realize that maybe it wasn’t the choice they wanted.

38% of college graduates report that they would have chosen a different major. Over 62% of college graduates do not work in their field of education. Only 27% of college graduates end up seeing their original major choice through to a career.

More and more, students are being cautious about four-year college programs, not wanting to make a mistake, so they opt for community colleges and/or take a more exploratory approach. This path is also full of uncertainty because it demands a balance between earning and learning, and there is often no real idea of where they want to end up. This is due to them not being made aware of the skilled trades approach and the opportunity it could afford them as they were taking classes in high school.

It seems as though there’s an imbalance and a stigma. Our kids are convinced that they need to go to college, and when they do, most of them don’t make a career out of it. We are setting our youth up for a difficult start as young independent adults by not giving them the options they deserve to find a different type of career path that might provide them with less debt, more money, and more fulfillment.

So how can we recruit better? How can we make the option of trade school known and explored by high school students looking for a career path? One of the best ways is to partner with educational institutions and technical schools to develop programs that align with the industry’s needs.

Incentives such as scholarships, grants, and dual credit programs can allow students to explore the skills necessary to have a successful career to see if a trade school might be a better fit for them than the traditional college plan. These programs can provide graduates with the essential skills that are required to excel in the workforce, should they choose to follow that career path to fruition.

Internship and Apprenticeship Programs

Employers that find themselves in a deficit of skilled labor can make attempts to fill their own gaps by offering internship and apprenticeship programs for local high school graduates and students in community colleges.

The programs not only allow the employer the opportunity to expose the next generation of the workforce to skilled labor but also helps the students in these programs build a sense of brand loyalty. Once the internship is completed, if the student enjoyed the experience and the work, they may seek options to supplement that knowledge and obtain the necessary certifications to come back and work as a certified skilled laborer for that company.

Apprenticeships are also helpful programs, as they provide paid working opportunities combined with continued learning and development. So while it starts out as a job, it’s also a learning experience that turns into a career once certain milestones are met and the appropriate number of hours are put in.

Self-Paced Learning and Exploration

Another option for opening the doors to our younger generation is to provide them with self-paced learning modules provided by different employers that are in need of skilled trades.

For example, employers can offer a “university” type of experience with their Learning Management System (LMS) that is used for internal, skills-based training. This approach offers a web-based exposure program that students can explore on their own time to see if working in the vehicle service industry is something that interests them.

There is a framework of classes, beginning with basic, introductory materials and details of the work with additional modules that build on one another and show the skills necessary to perform the type of work the student would be doing for the employer.

If these modules pique the interests of the students, there are next steps they can follow, such as furthering their skills and education at a trade school or exploring internships or apprenticeships with the employer.

LMS Platforms and Recruiting

Learning Management Systems are amazing tools that are used in most industries in some capacity. One thing we are beginning to notice is how under-utilized these platforms are as a recruiting and education tool for those who may be outside of our organizations looking in.

These platforms not only offer a way to educate and inform students about the type of work that the organization offers and the successful careers that can be built from it, but it can be a way to house applications, screen applicants, and analyze applicant skills before you even call them for an interview or to offer an internship!

These tools can streamline the process of application and selection for internship and apprenticeship programs and even bring ease to the hiring process. LatitudeLearning is no stranger to the benefit that these types of integrations can bring to your organization – and we want to help you implement it!

LatitudeLearning is the leading choice for enterprise learning platforms. We know that partner networks are the future of extended enterprise learning networks, and we’ve got just the resource to help you bridge the gap. For more information, sign up for our ebook, Back to Normal? The Future of Extended Enterprise Learning for Partner Networks.

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