According to the Manufacturing Institute, the educational arm of the National Association of Manufacturers, skilled workforce is one of the most critical factors affecting not only production, but also innovation, research and development in advanced manufacturing.

Manufacturers face a major challenge in years to come. In less than 15 years, 60.6 percent of the manufacturing workforce in Brevard County will retire. Currently, only 4.7 percent of that same manufacturing workforce is under age 25. These numbers are even more challenging than those for the entire state of Florida where 55.7 percent of the workforce is expected to retire in 15 years and 6.2 percent are under 25.

For comparison, and probably one of the biggest indicators of the industry trend, the workforce pipeline in the healthcare industry, for instance, is spread in nearly equal segments among all age groups.

The manufacturing industry is experiencing a critical supply and demand problem both here at home, and across the globe.

Demand on the Rise

In October 2013, the EDC surveyed a sampling of Space Coast manufacturers. Responses indicated that demand for skilled workers remains on the rise and identification of candidates with baseline skills required remains critical to their growth.

With an economic renaissance in full swing and the baby-boomer generation just years away from retirement, manufacturers will need to fill millions of positions in the next decade. There is also a major void that exists between the perception of manufacturing and the reality of manufacturing.

To create an awareness of careers in manufacturing and bolster the manufacturing workforce pipeline, the EDC introduced a pilot program in August 2014. This multi-faceted effort focuses on the supply and demand of human talent in manufacturing. The primary focus of the program includes:

  • Promotion of a post-secondary Certified Production Technician (CPT) stackable credential program to high school students, veterans, and existing industry workers.
  • Working with existing industry to promote CPT in hiring decisions and for use in career advancement for current employees.
  • Developing a marketing and attraction campaign to show the new side of manufacturing – an industry where dirty factories of old are giving way to clean rooms and high-tech machinery.

Certified Production Technician Program

Working to introduce a recognized stackable credential program, the EDC is promoting the Certified Production Technician Program (CPT) to a variety of groups. This course allows participants to prepare for the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council testing, which upon successful completion, results in a CPT designation. The program serves as a career start for new graduates, an enhancement of skills for experienced workers, and an opportunity to increase internal advancement for manufacturing companies.

The first CPT class was held in 2014 at Eastern Florida State College with 45 students completing the class. Students came from four local companies as well as four recent college/high school graduates. Seventy-five percent of class participants estimated a promotion or pay raise after certification. Additional classes are planned throughout the coming year and scholarship programs are currently being formed to assist those with a vested interest.

When a workforce issue is as powerful as the one currently ongoing in the manufacturing industry, it has the potential to create a major disturbance in our economy. Our workforce availability is one of the biggest selling points to relocating and existing companies. This is an issue that needs to be addressed from all fronts and it begins with economic development.

Head-LyndaWeathermanAbout the Author

Lynda Weatherman is president and chief executive officer of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast.