Risk Insider: Stacie Graham

The Looming Manufacturing Skills Shortfall Part 1: How Apprentice Programs Can Help

By: | April 2, 2018 • 2 min read
Stacie Graham is SVP and General Manager of National Insurance Casualty & Middle Market – Central Division for Liberty Mutual Insurance. She leads underwriting and service teams for large and midsize accounts. You can reach her at [email protected]

2018 is looking good for American manufacturers. Opportunities for organic growth – especially in international markets – are sprouting out of the convergence of a few key factors, including tax reform, a lean toward deregulation, advances in industrial technology, and an improving economy.

But a persistent industry-wide talent shortage and skills gap continue to stall that growth. According to a 2017 report by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, the U.S. manufacturing industry could be short by about two million workers between 2015 and 2025.

Like many other industries, manufacturers will soon see some of their most experienced employees leave the workforce in droves as they retire. And there just isn’t enough new skilled talent in the pipeline to fill the gap. A recent survey by the National Association of Manufacturers identified attracting and maintaining a quality workforce as a top challenge.

A big part of the problem is that most Americans simply don’t see manufacturing as a viable career option.

The 2017 Deloitte survey revealed that fewer than five in 10 survey respondents believe manufacturing offers an interesting, rewarding, clean, safe, stable, or secure environment. Many think the rise of automation will make factory jobs obsolete sooner rather than later. Or they see manufacturing jobs as too dangerous or too repetitive.

Fewer than five in 10 survey respondents believe manufacturing offers an interesting, rewarding, clean, safe, stable, or secure environment. Many think the rise of automation will make factory jobs obsolete sooner rather than later.

More advanced machinery and technical work compounds the challenge; even potential job candidates who are interested in manufacturing may not have the right skills.  Manufacturers ultimately have two options to address the skilled talent shortfall. Apprenticeships offer one solution. Co-bots offer another.

Manufacturers that invest in apprenticeship programs targeting younger applicants can instill the necessary skills to a pool of talent early in their careers. Successful programs can help build loyalty and improve the industry’s image through word-of-mouth, building the talent pipeline for years to come.

Manufacturers that invest in apprenticeship programs targeting younger applicants can instill the necessary skills to a pool of talent early in their careers.

The model has a proven track record. Germany adopted an apprenticeship model in the mid-2000s, and subsequently saw a decrease in the youth unemployment rate from a high of 15.9 percent in 2005 to 6.6 percent in 2017. By comparison, the U.S. youth unemployment rate reached 10.1 percent in 2017.

Siemens USA is tapping into that pool. They enroll local high school graduates in apprenticeships at their Charlotte, N.C. factory, providing hands-on training and paying for an associate degree in a science or engineering-related field. They often hire the trainees directly once they finish the program, so once apprentices finish the program in about 3.5 years, they are debt-free and have secured highly skilled full-time jobs.

In addition to building their own pool of potential hires, Siemens is also helping to debunk the notion that manufacturing doesn’t offer a solid career path. This is something every U.S. manufacturer should be looking to emulate.

Developing those programs and reaping the benefits, however, will take time. The next installment of this series will explore a more immediate answer: co-bots. &

More from Risk & Insurance

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The Profession

For This Pharmaceutical Risk Director, Managing Risk Means Being Part of the Mission to Save Lives

Meet Eric Dobkin, director, insurance and risk management, for Merck & Co. Inc.
By: | September 28, 2018 • 5 min read

R&I: What was your first job?
My first job out of undergrad was as an actuarial trainee at Chubb.I was a math major in school, and I think the options for a math major coming out are either a teacher or an actuary, right? Anyway, I was really happy when the opportunity at Chubb presented itself. Fantastic company. I learned a lot there.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?
After I went back to get my MBA, I decided I wanted to work in corporate finance. When I was interviewing, one of the opportunities was with Merck. I really liked their mission, and things worked out. Given my background, they thought a good starting job would be in Merck’s risk management group. I started there, rotated through other areas within Merck finance but ultimately came back to the Insurance & Risk Management group. I guess I’m just one of those people who enjoy this type of work.


R&I: What is risk management doing right?
I think the community is doing a good job of promoting education, sharing ideas and advancing knowledge. Opportunities like this help make us all better business partners. We can take these ideas and translate them into actionable solutions to help our companies.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?
I think we have made good advancements in articulating the value proposition of investing in risk management, but much more can be done. Sometimes there is such a focus on delivering immediate value, such as cost savings, that risk management does not get appropriate attention (until something happens). We need to develop better tools that can reinforce that risk management is value-creating and good for operational efficiency, customers and shareholders.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?
I’d actually say there hasn’t been as much change as I would have hoped. I think the industry speaks about innovation more often than it does it. To be fair, at Merck we do have key partners that are innovators, but some in the industry are less enthusiastic to consider new approaches. I think there is a real need to find new and relevant solutions for large, complex risks.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?
Cyber risk. While it’s not emerging anymore, it’s evolving, dynamic and deserves the attention it gets. Merck was an early adopter of risk transfer solutions for cyber risk, and we continue to see insurance as an important component of the overall cyber risk management framework. From my perspective, this risk, more than any other, demands continuous forward-thinking to ensure we evolve solutions.

R&I: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
Sticking with the cyber theme, I’d say navigating through a cyber incident is right up there. In June 2017, Merck experienced a network cyber attack that led to a disruption of its worldwide operations, including manufacturing, research and sales. It was a very challenging environment. And managing the insurance claim that resulted has been extremely complex. But at the same time, I have learned a tremendous amount in terms of how to think about the risk, enterprise resiliency and how to manage through a cyber incident.

R&I: What advice might you give to students or other aspiring risk managers?
Have strong intellectual curiosity. Always be willing to listen and learn. Ask “why?” We deal with a lot of ambiguity in our business, and the more you seek to understand, the better you will be able to apply those learnings toward developing solutions that meet the evolving risk landscape and needs of the business.


R&I: What role does technology play in your company’s approach to risk management?
We’re continuing to look for ways to apply technology. For example, being able to extract and leverage data that resides in our systems to evaluate risk, drive efficiencies and make things like property-value reporting easier. We’re also looking to utilize data visualization tools to help gain insights into our risks.

R&I: What are your goals for the next five to 10 years of your career?
I think, at this time, I would like to continue to learn and grow in the type of work I do and broaden my scope of responsibilities. There are many opportunities to deliver value. I want to continue to focus on becoming a stronger business partner and help enable growth.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?
I’d say right now Star Wars is top on my list. It has been magical re-watching and re-living the series I watched as a kid through the eyes of my children.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in? When I was about 15, I went to a New York Rangers versus Philadelphia Flyers game at the Philadelphia Spectrum. I wore my Rangers jersey. I would not do that again.

Eric Dobkin, director, insurance & risk management, Merck & Co. Inc

R&I: What is it about this work you find most fulfilling or rewarding?
I am passionate about Merck’s mission of saving and improving lives. “Inventing for Life” is Merck’s tagline. It’s funny, but most people don’t associate “inventing” with medicine. But Merck has been inventing medicines and vaccines for many of the world’s most challenging diseases for a long time. It’s amazing to think the products we make can help people fight terrible diseases like cancer. Whatever little bit I can do to help advance that mission is very fulfilling and rewarding.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?
Ha! My kids think I make medicine. I guess they think that because I work for Merck. I suppose if even in a small way I can contribute to Merck’s mission of saving and improving lives, I am good with that. &

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]