IPC chief talks workforce education at Apex Expo

March 2, 2018

San Diego, CA. A skills gap is making it difficult for United States employers to hire suitable people, according to John Mitchell, IPC president and CEO, delivering a keynote address at IPC Apex Expo. He said millennials make up the largest American workforce ever—but, apparently, the right workers with the right skills aren’t in the right places at the right times. He cited difficulties in educating prospective workers—information is growing exponentially (doubling every 13 months), but we don’t learn at an exponential rate.

Mitchell noted that five generations of workers are now in the U.S. workforce—covering the gamut from millennials to boomers. Each generation has its own styles and motivations. For example, he said, millennials want career advancement and the ability to use their skills in exciting jobs. They don’t just want to push a button or turn a crank and collect a paycheck. And they will change jobs frequently in pursuit of their goals. To attract millennials, who want to make real positive change while making money, companies should embrace causes and missions beyond their core businesses.

Similarly, men and women have different styles and motivations, Mitchell said, with men preferring hierarchical structures while women value work-life balance, a family-friendly environment, and gender diversity in management.

Mitchell then contrasted educational approaches. Traditional education provides a consistent, accredited known product but struggles to remain relevant, with traditional educators not seeing it their role to provide training for a specific job. Ad hoc on-the-job training is relevant, but it happens inconsistently or not at all. Certification is another approach, but workers don’t tend to earn certifications until after they are hired. He cited the German apprenticeship approach as an alternative worth examining.

He also noted that disparate teams can work together to improve outcomes. He cited the British Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, which was able to reduce errors through collaboration with a Ferrari’s Formula One pit crew.

Mitchell concluded by advising companies to use savings from the recent tax cut to invest in education. He also advised leveraging your trade association.

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