JUST-IN-TIME LEARNING

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BREAK INTO THE FIELD NOW

Now hiring. Manufacturers across the country are hiring, with some 600,000 skilled positions open. They need electrical engineers, lab technicians, hydraulic specialists, and people who make and run what we use everyday. Think aerospace, chemicals and plastics, communications technology, earth-moving equipment, analytical instruments, precision medical devices, biopharmaceuticals… the list goes on.  Service providers are also scrounging for talent, with the biggest demands in the healthcare, infrastructure management and maintenance, the food and beverage industry, office support and technology. 

See a job you want?  Take on a technical skill, just-in-time  Community colleges, universities, vocational training centers, and labor unions all offer curricula and certificate programs designed to meet the short-term workforce prep you need to make the pay grade.  Many of the best employers cultivate, train and mentor new entrants, on the job, onsite, or through affiliated education and training centers.

Credentials with currency. Consider just one industry cutting across every sector, skill level, and income base: welding. While the U.S. Department of Labor forecasts a bright outlook for this industry, the American Welding Society says its practically blinding as continuing job growth over the next several years will means hundreds of thousands of positions are open, from the most rudimentary metal fence fabricator to the welder working in a nuclear plant (pay ranging from $30,000 to +$100,000).  Like many of the trades, the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada offers short-term welding apprenticeships to accelerate training, equip trainees with marketable credentials, high-paying jobs and position their graduates on a career ladder they can climb with accumulated experience and training.  The unions want to increase their membership rolls, of course, but they the training they offer are the skills employers demand.  So skilling up immediately increases your marketability well into the future, and you can build on your know how as the jobs demand.

STEM Occupations on the rise  The Commerce Department expects Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math –  “STEM” occupations – to grow 17 percent over the next several years, compared with 10 percent in other occupations.  Government, industry and educational leaders are scrambling to increase the talent pool of innovators, inventors, and producers.  Yet only a third of BAs are in STEM (while student enrollment is growing overall, STEM enrollment is not) and there is a fifty percent bail out rate.  The United States Naval Academy, one of the premier institutions in the STEM field, worries about this steep dropout rate. It surveyed programs around the country and found that 90 percent of the students who step out of STEM say it’s due to poor teaching; and 70 percent of those who remain say they had poor educators.  Attrition among STEM students does not portend well for the severe shortages in highly sensitive areas like nuclear energy, where new hires are nowhere near the runaway retirement rates

The jobs are well within reach.  Thousands of enterprises have formal programs to scour the labor market for STEM talent.  They want quick fixes for immediate needs and ways to establish a workforce pipeline to tap for the future.  Government agencies, learning institutions, and private companies all give incentives designed to fill those pipelines. Websites boast scholarships, experiential curricula, just-in-time training, coverage of re-location costs, and lines for budding professionals to communicate with industry leaders.  Among the latest: SETforJOBS, hosted by the Entertainment Industries Council, and a coalition of employers from aerospace to animation firms intent on wooing students, their parents and teachers, and new entrants into the job market. 

Temp work can lead to full-time work  Passing over the temp service ads because you prefer to put your energy into the “permanent job” search?  Think again.  Temporary work cuts into the Catch-22 “can’t get a job until you have job experience” by giving you work, a reference, a paycheck, and a window into myriad companies, industries, and sectors to explore.  Most temp placement agencies operate nationwide, offer discreet job training, and know the pulse of hiring here and abroad.  A striking number of Manpower, Inc. positions, for example, lead to full-hire jobs replete with benefits.  During the height of recession, the temp firm reported, that number was a stunning 40 percent.  

Think forward and anticipate openings  Your dream job may not be available now, but it could be in the near future, given the dramatic waves of retirements across the public and private sectors. Over the next five years, for example, public/private utilities, from electricity to water, stand to lose 50 percent of their labor force.  Oil and gas workers, from power plant operators to transmission and pipeline workers, average 50 years of age (nearly a decade older than the average American worker); and they’re retiring at a much faster rate than they’re being replaced.  Within three to five years, roughly a third of all public employees – teachers, technicians, engineers, plant managers, maintenance workers – will be eligible to retire.  Contact public and private sector recruiting offices.  Determine the coursework you may need, the skills you must have to fit into that enterprise. 

Secure an internship. No room on the payroll yet? Be bold in your outreach to firms as you seek fieldwork and internships – during the school year, the summer, after graduation.  Manifest what “applied learning” means: that you can use what you’ve studied in school in real life, in real time.  There is great utility in this.  You’ll appreciate the practicality of the skills you’re acquiring as a student, and you’ll have a much clearer sense of what you need to hone now to be job ready in the future.  Build a relationship with a mentor while there. While most interns are poorly paid, if they receive any pay at all, the remuneration can be on-the-job experience and help from colleagues. Show initiative, and you’ll likely have a more interesting experience. The National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that both public and private employers continue to boost intern hiring and a staggering 40% of their new payroll hires this year will come from their intern pools.