Jennifer McNelly


The Manufacturing Institute

I had a discussion with a small manufacturer in West Michigan this morning. They actually have an apprenticeship program, yet they suffer from the lack of quality workers. So here’s a manufacturer that has integrated an approach, but they have challenges. Individuals don’t understand we make things in this country anymore. Therefore, they’re not thinking about manufacturing first and foremost as a great career opportunity.

I think the skill gap is a quality issue, and there are a couple of factors that have influenced that. One is the state of career and technical education in this country and where and how individuals get skills to make them competitive. The other is the changing nature of the world of manufacturing and what it takes to get into, be successful in, and advance in, a manufacturing career today.

Those two disconnects then truly create the environment that we’re in. What we need first and foremost is national leadership on this front, an agenda that sets forth a course in which policy enables action at the national level and at the state level and at the local level. We also need commitment at the local level, because what we do know is those jobs and those great education partnerships happen at home, where individuals can find employment and where individuals can get trained. You need a framework that allows success to happen, and then you need to get on the ground and do hard work.