A deficit in manufacturing talent is creating a workforce crisis as jobs are expected to go unfilled over the next decade. Employing skilled personnel in this critical industry is integral for shoring up U.S. economic and national security. With funding from the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment (IBAS) program office, the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station’s (TEES) SecureAmerica Institute (SAI) launched the Texas Workforce Development Ecosystem (TWDE) to address this alarming skills gap.
In 2020, TEES and the IBAS program partnered to identify disparities in the manufacturing workforce pipeline and implement a region-by-region approach to strengthen the industrial base in Texas. This first phase of TWDE applied targeted surveys, workshops and interviews to identify skill gaps and develop a framework for change.
This effort revealed multiple issues: local ecosystems unable to meet industry needs, deficiencies in essential skills, lack of awareness that manufacturing is a lucrative career and increased competition for skilled labor in the defense industry.
Phase two of TWDE is focused on addressing needs identified in phase one by bringing together industry, education and government stakeholders at the state and local levels.
Three major pursuits of the program include creating a workforce development ecosystem, raising awareness for the defense industrial base and manufacturing skills and leveraging DOD funded and commercial programs to provide training opportunities. TWDE will also facilitate a manufacturing skills playbook for replication of the program across the U.S. which will analyze urban and rural regions and socio-economically depressed areas.
“We hope to foster a strong and healthy defense supply chain by changing the perspective of manufacturing as a career,” said Scott Terry, program director for TWDE. “This industry is full of innovative opportunities especially with the rise of smart manufacturing and new technologies. It’s imperative we prove the merit of this industry to recruit and train our future workforce.”
A major goal of TWDE is to capitalize on existing networks to launch a manufacturing awareness campaign in the K-12 educational landscape. The campaign will include targeted outreach toward junior high schools, high schools, community colleges, students and parents.
“Our initiative will consistently reach out to industry players to determine existing needs and gaps. Acting on this information, TWDE will establish a presence across Texas to reinforce a manufacturing program of study in the state,” Terry said.
TWDE will also leverage partnerships within the Texas A&M University System to educate, equip and qualify students for DOD technologist and engineering positions injecting skilled candidates into the manufacturing workforce pipeline.
“TEES remains committed to serving the nation through execution of initiatives such as these,” said Rob Gorham, SAI executive director. “We are fortunate to have a partner in IBAS who understand the critical role that a strong manufacturing workforce plays in national security.”