Assess your abilities

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By Richard Hansen

Those of us who have lived in the Valley of the Sun for many years have come to recognize the names of many of the larger companies that manufacture their products here. These include companies such as Boeing, General Dynamics, Honeywell, Intel, Proctor and Gamble, and Snyder’s of Hanover. What many of us don’t realize is that smaller and less recognizable companies employ a majority of today’s manufacturing workforce. What these companies have in common, be they large or small, whether they manufacture computer chips or potato chips, is that they have many of the same needs when it comes to attracting a skilled manufacturing workforce. 

In spite of what we read or hear, manufacturing is not going away or being exported to China. In fact, manufacturing in Greater Phoenix continues to expand and flourish. Given the area’s skilled workforce, great climate, low cost of doing business and proximity to the West Coast, South America and Pacific Rim markets, the Valley remains an attractive place for technology-based manufacturers to locate. 

A key to the long-term growth and success of the region’s manufacturing industry has been our ability to provide a skilled and capable workforce. These are jobs that provide a strong boost to the region’s economy, paying 140 to 240 percent or more above the regional average wage. What’s more, many additional career opportunities are available for those who wish to advance.

It’s not surprising, then, that I am often asked the following questions: How do I get started? How do I show employers that I have the necessary skill? Well, the answer can, in part, be found in President Obama’s support of a national manufacturing Skill Certification System. As a community college employee, I know that unless a prospective employer knows exactly what is taught in a community college class, they won’t have any idea how much a student knows, regardless of the grade that student receives. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) Endorsed Skill Certification System helps us solve that dilemma.

The skills certification system is not necessarily about education. Rather, it is about the collective skills or competencies that come from experience, training, education and knowledge. Each of the certification components included in this system has a method, many times called an assessment, for determining how well the student really knows and understands the required skills. What makes this certification system so valuable is that employers in the industry have said what skills are important to them and how those skills can be assessed. Given that these skill certifications have been agreed to by companies across the country, they are said to be “portable,” which means that prospective employers would know exactly what skills have been mastered with that certification, regardless of where it was obtained.

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