The Manufacturing Executive
The Manufacturing Executive

Episode · 2 months ago

The Learning Factory: Closing the Skill Gap Starts with Education w/ Mike Nager


There’s no shortage of orders for most manufacturers out there —

The problem is finding the talent to help fill them.

How do we finally close the manufacturing skill gap?

Mike Nager, Founding Member of the Solution Center within Festo Didactic, which helps students learn hands-on manufacturing skills through its innovative Learning Factory, believes it all starts with education — and manufacturers need to do a better job educating.

In this episode, we discuss:

- The root of the skills gap

- The 3 paths to a career in manufacturing

- How Festo Didactic is helping to make more students aware of the what manufacturing can offer

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I think as an industry we haveto promote ourselves again. WE'RE UP ADENSE healthcare, we're up a dents legalcareers, we're up adense advertising. You know, things that get a lotmore press. So we have to make our own press. So welcome tothe manufacturing executive podcast, where we explore the strategies and experiences that are drivingmidsize manufacturers forward. Here you'll discover new insights from passionate manufacturing leaders who havecompelling stories to share about their successes and struggles, and you'll learn from Btob sales and marketing experts about how to apply actionable business development strategies inside yourbusiness. Let's get into the show. Welcome to another episode of the ManufacturingExecutive podcast. I'm Joe Sullivan, your host and a CO founder of theIndustrial Marketing Agency guerrilla seventy six. We all know that we need to attractthe next generation into manufacturing, but what are the different paths into that careerand how do we communicate the possibilities to that next generation so they know what'sout there? I guess today has written the book on this topic literally,and he's here to share his advice not only with manufacturing leaders, but withthose who we hope will become manufacturing's future workforce. Mike Magar is the authorof the Smart Students Guide to smart manufacturer and industry, four Poo, andhas been the keynote speaker at several industry events and PODCASTS. He's been recognizedas a top ten and one hundred influencer for industry, for no and theIndustrial Internet of things, or Iot. Mike has worked for world class manufacturersof industrial controls and has been inside of over five hundred manufacturing facilities throughout theAmericas and Europe. Mike attended the University of Scranton and Trinity College Dublin andis an electrical engineer. Mike Co Founded the solution center of Festo Didactic,a leading provider of advanced solutions for technical...

...and industrial training. In this role, he works with colleges and universities and collaborates with them to create smart learningfactories for handson education. Mike has been a leader in the I triple e, the international society of automation or Issa, and the material handling Association of ProfessionalSocieties. Mike Volunteers with the I Tripoli Mini Engineering Academy, which givesstudents experience in the technical fields with engaging after school projects. Mike, Welcometo the show. Glad to be here, Joe. Thank you very much forthe invitation. Very excited, awesome. Well, it's good to have youhere. You, Mike. I know you've got a new book freshoff the press this year, or a few months ago at least tell ourlisteners what it's called, who is for and what it's all about. Yeah, thanks, Joe. So the book that I published in January of twothousand and twenty one is titled This Smart Students Guide to Smart Manufacturing and Industryfor and the reason I wrote that is although I have a career and manufacturingand have work for manufacturers, there's a general perception out there in the publicat large that manufacturing isn't a greatest place to start a career with, andI wanted to get the message out to students, to counselors, to parentsthat they need to reconsider manufacturing as a career choice. So I looked onGoogle to see if there was something that was written around this and I couldn'tfind anything. I was shocked and I was like, okay, that's amessage for me to roll up my sleeves and to contribute back. So Iwrote that and it's been pretty well received so far, I'm happy to say. Yeah, that's great. I mean there's I'm also surprised that nobody hasfilled that void with an actual, tangible book, because you hear this issuebeing talked about so much. Almost everybody who comes on this podcasts somehow meantwinds up mentioning, you know, this issue going on with the skills gapand finding engaging young people and convincing parents that manufacturing has changed and is notwhat they may have perceived it, as... know, thirty years ago.So good for you for actually putting in the work to do it. Ithink the world needs it. So yeah, I appreciate that. You know,it was it was definitely an effort, let me put it that way.I'm an engineer by training. I'm not a writer by inclination, soit was a lot harder than I initially thought it was going to be.A Bad I've tossed around the idea of myself over the last couple of years. At some point I'm going to do it. I'm to write the thebook on Industrial Marketing. But it's an intimidating thought to, you know,take all everything that's in my brain and put it down in writing in abook. So very cool. I was gonna say you're the end of yourbook, Chapter Nineteen. Specifically, you talk about three different career paths intomanufacturing. You talk about one, the four year college, to the twoyear or community college and three, going right onto the planet floor out ofhigh school. I would love you to spend some time breaking down sort ofeach of these three paths, if you could talk about the benefits and drawbacksof each. I think would be great for in our listeners, whether theyare manufacturers or young people looking to get into manufacturing, to be able tohear sort of the way you see it. Yeah, definitely. So let's startwith the four year degree first. You know, typically, if you'reinterested in manufacturing at an early age, you would be signing up for anindustrial engineering class or course, maybe mechanical engineering. Those are the two bigpathways into manufacturing and of course, over the last several decades there's been abig push for parents to say, okay, you know, everyone needs a fouryear degree to be successful in society and four year degree is great.I have one myself. However, you know it. There's a significant costassociated, you know, with getting that and you're also making a decision ata relatively young age, let's say eighteen, that this is the path that youwant to take, and you know, once you sink the costs associated withthat degree into it, it's hard to kind of go back and belike, oh no, I I changed my mind. So that would beone of the drawbacks. The great advantages.

You have that certificate, so thediploma from that institution is really like a fancy certificate to your employer sayingYep, you know, I can buckle down, I can work hard forfour years. Here's the certificate to prove it. A very attractive option rightnow is the two year college route. The cost associated with it is afraction of what the four year degrees costs. In some areas it's free. We'realmost next to free, and that takes a lot of the pressure offa young person who's just starting out and, you know, doesn't saddle that personwith with the debt load. And interestingly enough, you know, Iwork with organizations all over the country there are two year degrees that pay asmuch or more than you know, certain four year degrees pay. In fact, in some areas, once a student has finished one year, local industrytries to pull them in like, okay, you don't need your your associates degreewill train you. For the rest, you know just enough. You hadrobotics, one hundred and one PLC one hundred and one censors, onhundred and one perfect. Come to us and we got a job for forty, fifty, sixty thousand dollars waiting for you. So that's a really attractiveoption from the debt standpoint and then also quickly being able to make an incomeand then finally, right out of school, if you're really unsure if it's foryou, you know there's no better experience than just getting right out thereon to the plant floor. Or drawback is you'll start at a relativity lowerwage and might be a little bit harder to get in if you don't havethe skill set. But eager, enthusiastic person that displays a lot of softskill capability often can land that very first position and now you can see whatthe job entails and in the advantage of that is you're seeing what the enterpriseis doing and you can see the holistic view of the enterprise even before studyingit. So I would say those are the breakdown. There's not one rightanswer, you know, there's three right...

...answers depending on the person that's consideringit. But but those are the three main pathways into manufacturing. How welldo you find that community colleges or two year schools that maybe you know couldcater to this are actually preparing people, are preparing students to, you know, be able to go into a career in manufacturing? They're doing a greatjob, I have to say. You know, I travel all over thecountry. There's many, many hundreds of technical and to your schools in theUnited States. Typically they work very closely with local industry. So if anyof your manufacturers that are listening, you know, to the podcast, havea local technical college, it's a great resource for many, many reasons toreally in act with them support them. They're begging for manufacturers to give themfeedback and input. They want to know exactly what to teach the students tobe of the most value to the local manufacturing base. So all you haveto do is make contact and participate, and I would certainly encourage any manufacturesto do so. You know, in my career, I focused a loton sales and marketing and, as such, you know, we think of manufactureand if you look at the competitive landscape, you know you're thinking aboutgetting more sales, getting more customers, but there's another war that's going onto and it's a war for talent. You got to bring people in tosit behind that desk, to sit behind the wheel of the car and goa visit customers and manufacturers are competing against every other industry that's out there.So healthcare, legal system, you know, you name it, they're all lookingfor the same professional people to do the job. So just be aware, you know, of that is what what I would recommend. The communitycolleges can introduce you to the you know, really great young people, people thatare being reskilled, you know that had other positions, and you canget the talent that you need through that... system. Like, I've heardyou use the term of learning factories. Can you tell us what this refersto? All right, job, yeah, yeah, thanks for that. Sothat the company I work for is called Festo Didactic. We develop equipmint and curriculum for technical schools to teach manufacturing, and the way that wedo it is we create a holistic system where we replicate an entire manufacturing facilityin a scale down version that can fit inside the classroom. So anything startingfrom order entry customer places in order for a customized product into our equipment set. We have the conveyors that then move that product and track it. It'susing all industry standard industrial controls, you know, from Siemens, from Rockwell, from sick fannock, from universal robots, and it's performing an entire assembly application. So we call it a learning factory because now technicians and students don'thave to learn on production equipment. As you're aware of, I'm sure,Joe, that the downtime associated with the manufacturing line going down is measured inthe tens of thousands of dollars per minute to start and goes up from there. So we provide the learning factory for training and education. Provides a verysafe environment. Nothing can break on it, no production time is lost. Butwhen those students get out into the real world they're going to have handson experience with all those leading technology companies that I just mentioned. That's reallygreat. For how long has Tesso, that Actul have been doing that andand just do you see this being a common thing? Yeah, so Festodidactics has a sister company, festal automation, which produces pneumatic valves and cylinders andlatronic sensors. FESTODIDACTIC this is the education and Learning Company and that wasfounded in one thousand nine hundred and sixty five. So it's been, youknow, over fifty years now that we have to formed this function. Wework with manufacturers, we understand manufacturing because...

...our sister company is a world classmanufacturer in itself, and we incorporate that know how into our curriculum for students. So it's been quite the run. We're active all over the world,so every continent and be a hundred different companies all get learning factories to trainfuture employees. That's great, Mike. There are so many technological advancements happeningright now in the manufacturing sector. I've had guests come on who are expertsin robotics and AI and connected factories and various elements of industry. For Pointno technology. As a guy who's been right in the middle of all ofthis, what are a few things that you could tell our listeners right now, like a few things that are that have you really excited that? Maybepeople don't realize or know a whole lot about that. Have you excited aboutmanufacturings future on the Technology Front? Yeah, that's a great question. Thanks,Joe. So an exciting technology. Will let me back up a littlebit and and say, you know, one core thing that we try todo is we try to eliminate as much on the job training as possible.So with our learning factory we try to expose the students to these breaking edgetechnologies very early. So one such system is cybersecurity. So cybersecurity is oftentalked about in the IT world. Protect the front office, protect the bankaccount. Every device that's on the plant floor now has an Ethernet connection andonce you have an Ethernet connection it's very easy to connect it to the Internetand now you've opened up a whole new attack vector that plant floor to hackers, bad guys and people with malicious intent. So we developed a curriculum in ahardware package that teaches you how to predict the network on the plant floor, how to protect those PLC's, how they make the subnets and we bringthat into the classroom. So it's not...

...on the job training, it's inthe classroom training. Another very interesting technology, and you mentioned it, is artificialintelligence. So that's kind of cutting edge and new and we've developed aprogram that allows students in a manufacturing environment, in this learning factory, to useAI for image recognition. So we have a couple simple examples where we'recounting parts and we're using a cloud AI and now they're learning all the nuancesof machine learning, supervised versus unsupervised learning, and again in the classroom, noton the plant floor. So those two, biber security and artificial intelligence. I'd say those are kind of the most the newest, most exciting thingsthat we've been involved in. Very cool. Yeah, I think there's just soso many interesting innovations that I think a lot of people outside of manufacturingprobably just don't realize what's happening right now and needs to be a part ofalmost rebranding what manufacturing is to the outside world. Yeah, definitely. Ithink manufacturing is like best kept secret in the US. I would certainly encouragemanufactures to open their doors during manufacturing week, so October is is manufacturing month inthe US, and encourage them to open the doors to the public.Let that fourteen year old and fifteen year old in to see, especially ifyou have robots moving around, if you have a high tech environment, letthem see that. It could plan a seat in that. Fourteen year old, Hey, I want to work here some day. And, by theway, you know fourteen year olds and eighteen year old you know like that, and you know they could be knocking on your door. In general,the general public has no idea the sophistication and the opportunities and manufacturing. Ithink as an industry we have to promote ourselves again. WE'RE UP ADENSE healthcare, we're up adainst legal careers, we're up a DNS advertising, you know, things that get a lot more pressed. So we have to make our ownpress. So open up your doors, show the public all the great thingsyou're doing and that'll help in many,...

...many ways. Good Advice. Whatother advice can you leave for manufacturing leaders who are listening about how toget the attention of the next generation? Yeah, so, you know,try to adopt the the platforms that young people use. So if you're youknow, there's a graying generation of workers right now, as you can see, you have to attract young workers in if that means going on to newsocial platforms. I would encourage you to do it. You know, ifyou don't have a youtube channel, okay, it's time to have a youtube channel. Maybe you need a tick tock channel. I would say you haveto go where the target audiences. So I would almost consider like a marketingeffort. Joe, you're experienced and professional marketing company. You have to doa marketing effort to attract people just as you would to attract customers. It'sprobably an equal amount of effort for both and it should have equal weight inboth, because you need people in the back office where it's going to bea long time before we have a lights out factory, you know, whereyou have dressed robots and automation. We're going to need people for the nextfew decades at least, I'm sure, to be running it. So makeit a priority, Joe. That's that's what I would recommend. I thinkyou bring up a really good point, and that's that more companies, moremanufacturers, are having trouble right now attracting people than they are generating business.I mean not say that everybody's just cruising right now, but you know,we're recording this in late two thousand and twenty one. And there's no doubtin my mind, from all the manufacturing people I talked to, that theproblem they're having is the people problem right now, much more so than generatingnew business. I mean, I've talked to a number of companies that theycan't fulfill orders, they can't they can't get the work done in time,their lead times are extending because they can't get somebody on the machine, andso I think it's just just sort of sit back and and hope that theworkforce starts, just starts showing up. Is is a pretty big mistake.You need to go out there and, just as you would try to proactivelygenerate business, VI a marketing and sales,... got to think about what's howwe're going to do the same thing on the people's side. Yeah,exactly right. I mean, as an industry, we have a duty topromote ourselves, to work with our local education system to let them know whatskill sets we're looking for, to engage directly on the social media platforms.Very well said. I agree one hundred percent. So on the other sideof the coin, Mike, what advice can you offer to America's youth orwhat message would you like to send to America's youth about considering a career inmanufacturing? Yeah, so, you know, a manufacturing is an exciting place.You know, sometimes it's called it information technology meeting physics, because thingsare moving, things are being produced and made. I believe that we're goingto see more of a reassoring of US manufacturers coming back from places where,you know, they might have set up twenty or thirty years ago. There'sa lot of technical and financial forces behind and political forces behind shoring US manufacturing, and that's just going to be more and more highly skilled workers are goingto be needed. So whether or not you have interest in robotics, ifyou have interest in data analytics or it, they're all incorporated in the modern manufacturinga plan. If you're interested industrial mechanical engineering, again, you knowthat's a classic pathway into manufacturing. But almost every other sub skill or subsetis employed. You know, manufacturers have attorneys, you know, on theirstaff doing patents and trademarks and things like that. So I would say don'toverlook it. Read a copy of the book. A lot of it Ihave published online and linkedin articles and other people like you, Joe, Iknow that you've been promoting it on your podcast. So you said that somethingabout the skill gap. You know, what we also have to address isthe awareness gap. So we just have to make people aware. Hey,you know, there's good opportunities here and... could fit in very nicely andhave a rewarding career doing something very beneficial for society. So give it aconsideration. Well said, Mike. Anything else you'd like to add to theconversation that I didn't ask you about? No, Joe, I really appreciateyou taking the time to interview me and talk about manufacturing, skills and employment, and keep up all the great work work that you're doing with your podcast. You always had very interesting guests and I learn a lot from each one. I appreciate that, Mike. How can our listeners get in touch withyou learn more about what Festo didactics doing, and also find a copy of yourbook? The easiest place I'm pretty active on Linkedin, so if youhear this, just shoot me over a request and then we can start thatconversation. My Book is available in paperback, any book, primarily on Amazon.The books located everywhere. It's a wide distribution, is what they callit, but if you're if you're interested in contact me and now I'll beable to hook you up with something fantastic. Well, Mike, I appreciate youdoing this. I know you're busy guy, so thanks for taking thetime out. And Yeah, I think this was a really, really greatconversation on a topic that I know for a fact is pressing issue that's gotto be addressed out there. Sure is. Yeah, thanks for all your effortsin this area, Joe. We appreciate it. You Bet this forthe rest of you. I hope to catch you on the next episode ofthe Manufacturing Executive. You've been listening to the manufacturing executive podcast. To ensurethat you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcastplayer. If you'd like to learn more about industrial marketing and sales strategy,you'll find an ever expanding collection of articles, videos, guides and tools specifically forB Tob Manufacturers at gorilla seventy sixcom learn. Thank you so much forlistening. Until next time,.

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