Wichita, Kans. — Going, going, gone are the days of bountiful, entry-level manufacturing jobs for applicants lacking an industry-recognized credential. Today’s job seekers fare better and go further with a certificate demonstrating the job candidate’s possession of relevant skills.
This clear message emerged from the Kansas Skills Summit hosted Oct. 29, 2012 by the Kansas Department of Commerce at WATC’s National Center for Aviation Training campus. Governor Sam Brownback and other state and national leaders touted and discussed the increasingly-important role of industry-recognized credentials to meet employer needs and to help employees earn family-sustaining wages.
“We’re really trying to get our state to the front of the pack on this,” Governor Brownback said. “We’re trying to urge the business community to say… if you’re going to work here, you’re going to need a certification. Healthcare has done it, now we need to do it in manufacturing.”
Jennifer McNelly, president of the Manufacturing Institute in Washington, D.C., acknowledged that only three of 10 parents encourage their children to go into manufacturing in spite of the industry’s competitive wages and a need for strong minds and creative thinking. Outdated stereotypes about manufacturing have not caught up with reality for many of today’s high-tech, high-wage manufacturing job opportunities available to those with industry-recognized credentials earned at technical and community colleges, McNelly argued.
Pat George, Kansas Secretary of Commerce, agreed.
“We must invest in human capital,” George said. You talk to any business leader and it’s all about the people and the leadership and having the right people in the right place. Many technical jobs often pay more. When I was in high school, the perception was that you needed to go get that four-year degree. And those seeking a technical degree weren’t held in high esteem. But today it might be better if we go and get that technical education first as a means to pay the way through a four-year degree.”
With more than a dozen technical and community college presidents on hand, attendees emphasized the need for industry credentials, technical certificates and two-year degrees. Business leaders were similarly enthusiastic. Debbie Gann, Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs at Spirit AeroSystems, explained that credentialed employees require less training, are more productive and remain employed longer. Gann’s view is one that other businesses are beginning to share, but there’s still a long way to go.
“Some employers haven’t made the connection between the cost of the certification and the resulting benefit,” said Dr. Duane Dunn, president of Seward County Community College.
As the emphasis on industry-recognized credentials continues to grow, WATC and its National Center for Aviation Training campus are perfectly positioned as a critical part of the equation.
Managed by Wichita Area Technical College (WATC), the National Center for Aviation Training (NCAT) is the world’s premier facility for the development of a skilled aviation manufacturing workforce. Additionally, a portion of the space is utilized by Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR). Located in Wichita, KS, the Air Capital of the World, NCAT was built by Sedgwick County in 2010 and boasts 220,000 sq. ft. of state-of-the-art training labs and classrooms.