By Al Cervero
AEM Vice President, Construction, Mining & Utility

To be or not to be – that is the question. It’s relevant on so many levels, including new technology, materials development, sensors, and so on. Where do you spend your time? Where should you spend your time? My answer is simple – workforce development and transition. Or else you may not be.

When AEM was fully engaged in workforce development prior to our latest recession, the average age of a construction worker was 52. Where is it today, within your company and your upper management?

Think back to the beginning of the recession in 2007-8 and how your management has changed and the decisions required, and now think about what's next. Are you set for the next 5-10 years? Not only how you are making decisions, but with whom.

At our 2015 annual conference, we had three speakers talk about millennials and how they are making decisions and working. Their presentations reminded me of when AEM was discussing how to move forward on workforce development, and our decision was that it is a local issue. 

As manufacturers, you have factories, warehouses and engineering locations. Are all of those locations connected to schools (technical, high school and universities) and military bases? Are you connected to civic clubs who offer scholarships? Are your interns more than filers, are they part of your workforce, do they become your advocates when they go back to school? Do your local schools all know who you are, do their counselors know about the careers you offer? You’re local and you alone must make sure the locals know you.

One of the three speakers at our annual conference was Derek Woodgate of the Futures Lab, who talked about upskilling in the workforce to adapt to technology and the importance of the Maker Movement.  Do you know the local maker clubs in your area? They are your future innovators.

Another was Jeremy Bout, CEO of Edge Factor. Do you know if your elementary or high schools even have a manufacturing philosophy or curriculum, or do they even know where to hear about it? They are teaching your future factory floor personnel.

The third presenter was Mark Hatch, CEO of TechShop, a developer of physical locations for makers to innovate or just make stuff. Do you have any idea where your future best and brightest go to putz around? They are your creators.

Look around – is your company doing all it can to prepare for the future and the first level of employment? Then ask yourself, who is next in line, are they preparing for technology and workforce decisions? Have you thought about engaging the youngest you have to help you in workforce decisions for the future?

Better yet, have you thought about engaging the youngest in your strategic direction meetings, or maybe engaging them in a disruption project such as "how can someone disrupt our company"? This was the idea of 2014 annual conference speaker Luke Williams, professor of innovation and marketing at the Stern School of Business at New York University.

Times are changing – are you? How will your company prepare for tomorrow? Because tomorrow is coming.