(3) Even though our region is among the highest in terms of concentration of engineers per capita in the U.S., so many of these engineers have been trained for, or have experience in one primary industry. (4) Finally, when combined, the affect of the previous three factors creates exponential complexity in finding solutions: Industry has less capital available to train engineers for new skills that they require at the same time that the engineers that are available are more often without skills required to be successful in new and changing engineering environments.
Through a series of symposia, The Engineering Society of Detroit Institute is aggressively addressing these and other related issues facing the engineering community of our region. The general theme of education- and training-gap is one of the elements that the ESD is positioned to support as part of its role as neutral facilitative process forum and as resource for stakeholders to enable innovative strategies and solutions. Traditional learning and “match-making” supply-chain alternatives available today (if unchanged) will simply not be sufficient to close this ever-widening gap and at the same retain top engineering talent and promote economy recovery.
As a result, the Directors of the ESD Institute, along with various other members of staff and the ESD Board of Directors elected to hold a half-day symposium with attendees from the auto, defense, construction, equipment, design, utility and energy sectors representing the majority of industry supporting our regional economy and engineering employment.
Specifically, the ESD, through the Institute, and by invitation of a representative sample of the regional engineering employer community, saw as a part of its mission the need to consider creative future ideas and processes to address the skill-training gaps that exist and are growing in all industries. The primary motivation, which is aligned with the ESD’s fundamental doctrine, mission and vision, is to enhance employment opportunities for professionals in transition through the identification and implementation of effective, quick-turnaround programs. One goal would be the development of a comprehensive talent transition pipeline to multiple industries to increase employment of our region’s engineering and technical professionals.
The Mega Question for this symposium asked the following:
What are the knowledge and skill gaps that employers need filled today from ESD’s technical professionals to enable your organization to compete on a global basis?
The following were attendees at the first half-day Training & Education Mini-Symposium:
|Mr. Cliff Bennett, Durr Systems, Inc.
|Dr. William Hamman, Beaumont Hospital
|Mr. Joe Joseph, General Motors
|Mr. Raymond Kelly, DTE Energy
|Mr. Jim Nahrgang, Barton Malow Company
|Mr. Sean Newell, Ford Motor Company
|Ms. Sharon Osmond, Chrysler LLC
|Mr. Tim Reamer, Harley Ellis Devereaux
|Ms. Pame Watts, TARDEC Corporate University
|Mr. Chris Webb, ESD Institute
|Mr. David Skiven, ESD Institute
|Mr. Mark Marheineke, ESD Board Member & Facilitator
Also in attendance were others representing the leadership and staff of the ESD.
After initial round-table introductions, attendees were individually asked to articulate at least one important outcome for this mini-symposium. The following outcomes were captured:
- Address the youth-to-workplace knowledge path
- Validation of vision for the transfer of knowledge
- Sharing of global training techniques — process — best practices
- Future gaps — how to prepare for the challenges
- What else is out there? Changes are required now; limited time to act
- “Sharing” of ideas from someone here
- Learn other perspectives
- As a smaller company - looking for ways to meet new requirements with less resources
- Find out what ESD can do to supplement training, i.e., civil engineers to applications engineers
- Maintain changing licensing requirements in Michigan
- Need to serve individual ESD members for sustainability
- Sustainable focus for education going forward (method / content)
- Find ways to be more efficient internally with training dollars. Less training dollars available but more work!
- How to weave a cohesive training program together given all the challenges
- Assure plans we’ve created can be used and are sustainable
- Ownership / funding shifting — must focus more on U.S. and Canada — less global
- ESD is here to serve — want to be used as a resource
- Ideas on how to position ESD as the “go to” organization for engineering members
- Help young engineers through their career stages
- Find available funds for transition training
- Find the best way to have ESD provide the BEST so that we are more efficient; so we don’t trip over each other trying to accomplish (ultimately) the same objective: efficiency / effectiveness
- Good teachers = nourishment Keep the passion
- Keep engineering jobs in Michigan; can’t afford to continue bleeding great talent
- Better understanding of each other’s needs and a possible partnership. ESD understanding the challenges of patient care and IT infrastructure
While documenting attendees desired outcomes above, it became apparent that the planned mega-question would not adequately address attendees’ needs. The meeting agenda was modified to accommodate three categories: (A) Training Methodology, (B) Training Content, and (C) The potential role of ESD to address training and knowledge gaps.
At the onset, all participants were asked to share their training methodologies with emphasis on global applications or unique circumstances. In response to this, three participants contributed in detail their “story” relative to successful, unsuccessful or changing training methodologies for their organizations.
- Start before person joins the company: Look at young men and women in the undergrad schools. Draw from local schools where possible and bridge school-to-work post graduation.
- PACE (Partnership for the Advancement of Collaborative Education) — Worldwide method for drawing in engineers (pipeline); GM partnered with education and other companies. No co-ops or internships; purely a mechanism to find the best and bring them into the organization with a plan for development wherever they were needed most.
- Retention: If GM was not providing continuous education, people wouldn’t be interested in joining or would prematurely leave. In addition, specific Masters Degree programs were needed to address new learning requirements for a rapidly changing engineering environment. The GM Technical Education Program became a worldwide benchmark.
- Changing Business Needs: (i.e.-hybrid/electric vehicles) — no way to draw talent from anywhere, since the requirements were so new. The average course life of 4 years was reduced to less than 2. Must find a way to stay “current” with all training programs.
- Teachers On-Site: Develop and provide technical “teachers” where the technical resources are, regardless of location. Teachers were identified, developed and available in locations all over the world.
- “Army of 1” — goal: any knowledge or information needed by anyone, anytime, anywhere in the world can be found on-line.
- Government does not provide any technical training directly. This service is outsourced. No internal certification or training from within TARDEC. Two primary requirements:
- Must be applied knowledge (not research)
- Rely on industry to get training — because unlike educational institutions, industry is already applying, meeting primary criteria above.
- Continue to have problem that major systems / programs not coming on line on time or on budget
- Training is not creating for “NOW”
- One best practice: “Friday Night Fights” — connect senior to junior regularly and frequently: generals and soldiers in field every week
- Too small to develop everything. Must rely on outside sources
- Can’t seem to identify need, get it created and delivered in a way that meets current and upcoming challenges fast enough. We do what is necessary, but it isn’t efficient
Throughout the mini-symposium, elements of “content” surfaced and were captured. The following is a real-time list of content-related ideas and comments captured throughout the meeting in no particular order. Clearly, this is not a complete list — rather just the beginning of a subject that will require more discussion and study. Simply as a means for a “place-holder” for these ideas — the following content items will be explored further in a future session.
- Development of NOW training (not training that was useful 2 years ago, but training that is needed today and in three months
- Delivery of NOW training as either in-sourced, outsourced or some combination. Seems most industries are moving more towards an outsourced, flexible model.
- Before I can build something — (as an engineer) I must first have excellent interpersonal skills in:*
- Working as a Team; Team Leader; Team Member
- Leadership development
- Soft skills: human relations, communication, negotiation, empathy, selling, etc.
- Conflict resolution
*Not just new engineers, but even 20 year veterans; THIS IS A DIFFERENTIATOR (Maybe I learned some of this before but my skills are “dusty”, need refreshing) — project management example
- Basic Finance: how a business makes money; elements of basic business acumen
- GM construction courses — ready to be given to ESD as a resource available to masses so long as ESD owns the updates going forward.
- Soft skills (as mentioned above)
- Transition to alternative careers — the “how to” of transitioning from one engineering discipline to another.
- Simulation — the role of this tool as a shared or common methodology across multiple disciplines
- What are common between clean water, energy, transportation à what’s required in order to address training needs cross-functionality
Two additional caveats emerged relative to training content — regardless of whether or not the content is technical or soft-skills training:
- The training must be measured for effectiveness beyond the post-training “sunshine index” (i.e., “How did you like the class?”)
- Cannot underscore the importance of the “Protection of Intellectual Property” issues related to either authorship or ownership of training content.
During this portion of the symposium, it was apparent that there was more energy generated through participation in this topic than any other. Whether this was a function of timing (mid-to end of morning) or because we finally arrived at the “heart of the matter,” further exploration of these ideas is required to distill the best role for ESD in training and education.
The following are all the ideas captured under the general heading of “Potential Roles for the ESD” relative to training, education and/or as a “match-maker” somewhere in the process of linking project requirements with those who have the appropriate talent.
- ESD might be a facilitator or agent for the content of NOW training directly, or indirectly as a “clearinghouse”
- What programs, if any, could be successfully transferred to ESD as internal organizational training downsize?
- Should ESD offer “soft” training skills?
- Should ESD limit its direct training to “regulatory” or “licensing” requirements?
- Should ESD become a “broker” through an employment “pull system?”
- Should ESD form “ESDmatch.com” service?
- Should ESD become an educational “clearinghouse” for prospective employers and employees?
- Should ESD offer “train the trainer” programs?
- What are ESD’s core training competencies?
- Should ESD consider the formation of a Training Advisory Group?
- Consider a “pull system” in which the “customer” checks website or calls to find out if something is available
- ESD in the role of helping individual members assess: What do I need to improve my skill set today to prepare for next job, project, evolution in industry (including new ones)
- Younger engineers aren’t looking for one job for life — they are adapting to a “project” based professional development path
- “Clearing House” role — what is available elsewhere/everywhere to optimize offerings @ public/private institutions “broker” (like pull-system, or opposite?)
There were two other tools that were mentioned and briefly described that would become useful in any future work associated with training and education in this context: They are:
“Now” “New” & “Next” Analysis
A tool that can be used to capture dramatic shifts that are more “revolutionary” rather than “evolutionary” in nature. The “Now” considers our present circumstances, the “New” examines the foreseeable horizon, and the “Next” challenges our assumptions through critical thinking and engages our creative abilities to discover future implementable solutions to meet training and employment needs on a long-range basis. Due to time constraints, attendees were not able to apply this tool during our mini-symposium although the efficacy of this tool was recognized and it was the consensus that it should be utilized in subsequent follow up work.
“Four Square” Training Analysis (Overall & ESD)
Returning to ESD’s primary motivation to enhance employment opportunities for professionals in transition through the identification and implementation of effective, quick-turnaround programs, staff considered next steps to develop a comprehensive talent transition pipeline to multiple industries to increase employment for our region’s engineering and technical professionals. Some of those next steps included:
- Leverage all resources — optimize —
- Knowledge of who has what
- Experts (Emeritus) talent access
- Link resources to help manage cost
- Make what is currently not affordable by small to mid-size companies available through ESD (i.e. Skillsoft Harvard)
- Help engineers navigate from one discipline to another
- Engineers pay ESD as an “agent” to help prepare, channel and “push” engineers to new places, projects, careers ASSESS » GAPS (tech/non) » PREPARE
- Source top talent (pre-qualified) through ESD membership, specifically members who have self-evaluated AND been assessed (soft, technical, etc.) — “ESD certified engineer”
- Support employers in the selection process
- Even for current/experience talent in jobs today — provide the “assess and strengthen” service
- Linkage to funding sources (public) — some are successfully getting it
- Content for courses not readily available we need today — how do we get that?
- Can ESD help assess needs; gaps and provide recommendations (non — reactive preferably????)
- “Strategic Training Plans”” vs. what’s needed NOW à Disconnect
- First adaptation is required whether large or small; global or local
- The real “gap”: what role does ESD play in FACILITATING optimization linking all these resources = reduced cost base for all
While this mini-symposium took a different direction than originally planned, the outcomes were far richer than expected.
With respect to Focus Outcome #1 on Training Methodology, the discussion produced a wealth of information based on experiences from attendees regarding various training philosophies and methods. Requirements for future training methodology will clearly be different than that which we have used in the past. Some require a more global approach, while others are actually moving back to a more U.S. based or regional approach. Some systems are large with very complex needs while others are small. One shared issue is the growing scarcity of financial and human resources to address training gaps, thus all industries could substantially benefit from sharing and optimizing resources.
Regarding Focus Outcome #2 on Content, it soon become clear that our discussion raised more questions than it answered and deserved additional consideration in a follow up effort. Content ideas that were raised were captured, and in the general opinion of attendees, the subject of content would be significantly more valuable in concert with deeper discussions surrounding methodology and ESD’s potential role in training and education.
For Focus Outcome #3 on ESD’s Potential Role, attendees (in the limited time available) brainstormed a wide spectrum of potential opportunities for ESD to increase their value to individual engineers and industry members. Tools like the “Four Square” and “Now, New & Next” analyses would be helpful when driving to deeper levels of need and support-required. Once again, a follow up effort hosted by the ESD Institute, supported by attendees of the symposium was discussed as the next best step to forward the overall agenda.
What seems clear is that ESD’s current offerings in the area of training and association management services (including marketing, meetings & education, certification services, IT support, web development & operations, publications and e-newsletter, member and customer services, financial service and human resource assistance) are valuable elements in the total technical development “picture” but are not complete in terms of addressing the needs of our members and region.
It was therefore the recommendation of ESD’s Directors that this symposium continue its work in fleshing-out content and methodology so the role of ESD, in terms of fulfilling it’s educational mission, can best be designed and executed to address our most urgent regional needs for both industry and potential engineering employees.
Participants enthusiastically supported the suggestion of a second symposium session that would explore the outcomes of the June 30th session in greater detail. The Institute Directors made a commitment to send the follow-up summary report along with an invitation for a second session. Participants even suggested they be allowed to invite and bring with them others in their organization who might be helpful in defining and designing the future direction for training and education of engineers in our region.
The Institute wishes to thank all attendees for their thoughtful participation and extend a special note of appreciate to Mr. Mark Marheineke for his volunteer role as our lead facilitator and contributor in preparing this report. This report is being circulated to all attendees for any additional comments and with the request that you provide us with potential times for a follow up symposium on this topic.