I interviewed Thomas Peters who discussed Job Labor Shortages Impacting Manufacturers Today and in Future.
Can you provide a brief background of yourself.
I’m the director of Workforce Development at Symbol Training Institute. I’ve been here for 5 plus years and in that time… what Symbol does is actually I’ll give you the whole history on us. Symbol Training Institute was initially a tool and die shop called Symbol Tool Inc. that was founded in the early 80s. And we had skill labor shortages that we were experiencing even back in the early to mid-90s and here in the United States of America we just confine the local talent and we rely on a steady pipeline of immigrants coming from the eastern block of Europe. You know countries like Poland, Russia, etcetera. And overtime, that’s kinda dried up, that well of talent as well have dried up and we were just perplexed as to why we couldn’t find any locally grown talent here in the States either be it from the community colleges or local training provider.
Symbol’s management team decided to reach out and speak to some of the local manufacturers who were experiencing some of the same thing, certainly we were talking about skill labor shortage before the media ever got around to doing it or, I guess, presenting it to the general public. And we decided to initially band up with some local manufacturers in the Chicago land area cos we’re right outside Chicago and we service that whole area. And we decided to start training combat workers initially and overtime we started with our popularity and the success of our training. We expanded out to just the general public in general who, I guess we would call them greenhorn folks who’ve never set foot in a machine shop before or folks who’ve never been you know doing anything manufacturing related but they could have been truck drivers, they could have been bank tellers, etc. We’ve even have, believe it or not, a Grammy artist that come here who used to write a lot of song for some of the famous artist. He always had the passion and the mechanical attitude for advance manufacturing and that’s how he came over here. So we got about 250-300 students a year currently. And we have two locations, one is in Skokie, Illinois, which is just north and is almost adjacent to the city of Chicago, a suburb there. And then one that is west of O’Hare of village called Addison which is a suburb in the Chicago land area in a very heavy industrial area here in the Chicago land area.
The benefits here in Illinois I guess in the northeastern part of Illinois is it’s very manufacturing… or you know it has a very long legacy of being an industrial kinda capital of the Midwest here in America. And there’s a good wide range of manufacturers in multiple industry that service manufacturing be it automation, aerospace, green technology, medicine, etc. They are all these job shops that make a wide array of parts. A lot of these job shops you’ve never… the general public has never heard of. But they do do business with you know, the big boys such as Caterpillar, GE, etc. even one of the large automakers too. And they make those parts and our graduates end up working at these manufacturing job shops. So my job here, one of my roles here at Symbol is of course go out to the manufacturers, let them know that a training such as ours exist. And also to supply them with the talent that they are sorely lacking. I’ve talked to many many manufacturers these days and I would say that even their biggest hindrance to growth is the fact that they can’t find enough quality people. Even the tool builders that sell the actual machine, you know this advance technologies and the shops they tell me all the time they could sell more machine tools if they could attach operators to actually operate them. These are some of the hindrances of growth that are impacting the, you know, Chicago. They’re right here.
Why would you say that there is this problem?
Well, it’s been a you know a long-standing issue where manufacturing probably the last 2 decades has received a lot of negative press. Everytime there is a plant closing or just the advances of technology which inherently took up some jobs here and there. Everyone was just scared to get into this field and it didn’t appeal to them, unfortunately even today it still doesn’t appeal to the millennial generation so that’s why they’re experiencing the shortage for the last 20, 30 years. People have just not bothered to get into it. Also with a lot of our high schools, a lot of the machine shops have been kind of taken off the budget line there, eing removed from you know. For instance, in the city of Chicago they used to have a lot of these vocational tech high schools and they have gone by the wayside or they’ve changed their names from vocational to college preparatory.
I know the government’s insistent on getting more people to college kinda needlessly at the time, really impacted the manufacturing because at the end of the day even all these folks going to a 2 or 4-year school, people are still out of work and still can’t find a job nor do they have relevant skill set at which we supply here at Symbol Training Institute within a four-month time-frame so it’s a very fast track type of training program that we can get someone the skillful... I guess employment skills that would help them gain fully employed within 4 months. That’s a wonderful thing we could offer to the general public and even those who want to advance on the field. Again there’s that skill-shortage which is really hurting the manufacturers mainly because people’s lack of awareness or the negative stigma that is associated with manufacturing cos again a lot of people think of it more like in the… you know those 1940s or 1950s black and white videos of just an assembly line and someone doing the same thing over and over and over. A very mechanical process whereas that is not the case, there’s a lot of modern machine shops. You’re working with a lot of technology, you’re doing many processes any given day and that’s a very fast-paced and challenging environment.
Can you talk about how do you address this labor shortage a little bit more?
Yeah so it’s been a difficult… certainly it’s been a hard sell to try and get folks to get in this field. It obviously require a lot of outreach to the high schools, to the community centers to practically everywhere that anyone will you know get a gathering, of folks who will listen and just letting them know that manufacturing jobs here in the States are alive and well. They’re high demand, high paying jobs just trying to get across to it you know… our youth, it’s getting across to the parent even though that’s a very difficult proposition. Just getting a bunch of parents sitting in a room. Just trying to get the message out before we can talk about what we do as a training provider and you know job placement agency in an essence. We have to first talk about the merits of why an individual should enter this field and how it could be lucrative for them.
Thanks Tom! How can people learn more about your training?
Sure! You could visit our website at http://www.symboltraining.edu/. That’s S-Y-M-B-O-L training dot E-D-U. Feel free to also follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Our twitter feed is @symboljob and if you know just… for those who don’t like to use the phone and actually talk our phone number’s 8476736500 and those who live in the area certainly you’re more than welcome to stop by and go in there and you know. We’re more than happy to speak to anyone and everyone.
All right, thank you!
About Thomas Peters
Director of Workforce Development at Symbol Training Institute