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Upskilling Can Help Counter ‘Great Resignation’

Recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that the pre-pandemic model of work has shifted dramatically. Employees from across industries are taking stock of their individual situations and are deciding if they want to continue where they are, or move jobs, careers or even locations, leaving many industries and employers struggling to find skilled talent to take the jobs left behind.

While this “Great Resignation” is certainly a challenge because we are not going back to the pre-2020 model anytime soon as employees demand more flexibility, improved work-life balance and improved pay, employers should treat it as the opportunity it is.

Despite the current narrative, there are people out there in our communities who are hungry to work and are willing to take advantage of the current job market to improve their lives, by learning a new skill or taking on a new career, which provides all the benefits mentioned above.

SKILLS TRAINING CAN’T BE ‘SOMEONE ELSE’S’ PROBLEM

The challenge for employers hasn’t changed from before COVID-19, but the pandemic exposed it for all to see. Employers, particularly in the manufacturing sector, need to invest in training opportunities for current and prospective employees. For too long, employers have expected employees to join their business readymade and that providing the necessary training for specific skills in any number of businesses was “someone else’s” problem.

How can we be so sure? Because we have seen it at LIFT in Detroit, where our welding technician training center is full most nights, our CNC technician training center is active daily, and our robotics technician training courses just kicked off in November with a waiting list well into the winter.

The programs are blended, both online and hands on, and self-paced so they provide the students with the flexibility they need to learn on their schedule and earn their credential when they are ready. The point is, people are coming to LIFT, earning a certification in advanced manufacturing, and moving into the workforce immediately. And LIFT’s talent program is rolling out across the country, not just in Detroit!

INDUSTRY INVESTMENT CRITICAL TO UPSKILLING EFFORT

However, as a nonprofit, public-private-partnership, the funding for these students is finite and once again, the burden to upskill or reskill current and future employees will rest on industry. The good news is employers don’t have to go it alone. There are organizations across the region, state, and country, from nonprofit, public-private-partnerships to community colleges and other organizations who are ready, willing, and able to help industry find and train the right people for their organizations.

At LIFT, our mission is to Drive American Manufacturing Into the Future Though Technology and Talent Development, but it takes partnerships across industry to give the incoming talent what they need to be successful. We stand ready to work with manufacturers across the state to invest in talent, we just need industry to invest as well. •

Nigel Francis is CEO and executive director of LIFT, the Detroit-based Department of Defense national manufacturing innovation institute.