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

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.

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That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.

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Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]