By Julie Davis, AEM Director of Workforce Development

Workforce DevelopmentAllow me to introduce myself as the new director of workforce development for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. It has been an honor to join the AEM team in supporting the construction, utility, agriculture, forestry and mining industry sectors. These industry sectors support the heart of America, and I’m proud to add to AEM’s efforts to ensure our members are strong, healthy and successful today and in the future.

My roots are deeply blue-collar, having spent a good portion of my childhood growing up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. I remember getting older and watching the equipment on our farm evolve and experiencing the difference it made in our family’s quality of life. My uncles also farmed and worked in forestry during the winters, so my connection to heavy equipment runs deep. My passion for workforce developed through corporate training and economic development in Northeast Wisconsin. I enjoyed getting to work with manufacturers of all shapes and sizes while focusing on meeting their needs to upskill existing workers. This gave me a broad base understanding of the evolution that has taken place in entry-level skills needed for manufacturing.

Learn more about the equipment manufacturing industry's efforts to close the skills gap by signing up for an AEM Thinking Forward event in a city near you.

Spending the past two months since joining AEM researching our industry sector needs and better acquainting myself with our members and partners has been an eye-opening experience. Yes, the needs are great. However, the time is ripe with opportunity to change the landscape as it relates to workforce development. Here are just a few of the initial impressions I’ve gained as I’ve mapped my road forward:

  • We are an industry sector that hasn’t told our story in a long time. We are shadowed by both old perceptions and misperceptions. However, we are also an industry sector that has a GREAT story to tell. Now is the time to look at how we tell it. There is strength and opportunity in working together.
  • Nationally, we are shifting away from the idea that four-year college is the only route to success. We can continue to communicate to parents and young adults why skills education leads to successful pathways, and ones without debt.
  • There is no “one thing” that will address our industry sector workforce shortfall. There are many opportunities in which members can choose to be engaged.
  • Local efforts create local results, regardless of the size of your business. As we work with members, we will create tools and ideas for you to put to immediate use. Not only will we advocate nationally, but we will give you tips on how to advocate at your local level. We will learn from you and share out what you are doing that works. In addition, we will gather research about our industry sector so that we can provide data points and measurements to track if we are making progress on your behalf. At the end of the day, your engagement will become key to shifting our shared story.
  • There are segments of the available workforce missing that we need to engage as we seek to solve our shortage. These include women, veterans, opportunity youth, minorities, underemployed adults, and those transitioning from the criminal justice system.
  • Creating a workforce pipeline starts with engaging youth at an earlier age than previously thought. Actively partnering with non-profits like FFA or Skills USA at the local level exposes youth to our industry in a powerful way and creates excellent visibility for your organization in the community.
  • Communicating with your local educators and guidance counselors is key. The better the communication flow between industry and education is, the swifter the skills gap will be closed.

Check out AEM's Thinking Forward podcast to hear industry workforce development success stories. 

AEM is dedicated to working towards meeting workforce needs for our members. Already, I know that many of you are doing exceptional things in your market. Please reach out to me with your success stories so I can benchmark them and share them. I also know that some of you feel isolated with the challenges you face. Equally, reach out to me and let me know your challenges so I can better understand the support needed. AEM is committed to engaging in this effort alongside you, and so am I. I look forward to hearing from you!

 Subscribe to the AEM Industry Advisor for regular updates about this and other important industry topics.

×