Our March issue focuses on heat treating. For those of you trying to figure out how to estimate heat-treating costs, check out this month’s article on this topic and the companion unabridged online version. Our Commercial Heat Treaters Guide is also a great resource for anyone in need of a heat treater in their area. Search the regularly updated online directory at directories.industrialheating.com/commercialheattreat. 

    Several heat-treating projections are predicting growth. According to a recent report, the global heat-treating market is expected to grow by 7.27% annually through 2016. The Metal Treating Institute (MTI) is predicting a 7.7% sales increase in 2014 over 2013. Experts believe that the Far East will continue to be a growth area while aerospace manufacturing will slowly move away from the U.S. and the U.K.

    One of the reasons for this increase is the generally positive outlook for manufacturing. In a recent press conference, Dr. Helmuth Ludwig, CEO of Siemens Industry USA, laid out three reasons why his company is optimistic about the future of U.S. manufacturing. Ludwig said the continuing economic recovery, the industry trend of going digital and the next generation of manufacturing employees are grounds for everyone to be positive.

    Ludwig and Siemens are confident that the economic recovery will continue in several key segments. He pointed to the fact that capital spending is expected to increase 9% in 2014 (according to a December study by Goldman Sachs) and that the Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) has been stable – around 55 – for the last six months. Ludwig also cited the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation’s most recent business outlook, which was at its highest level since September 2011. Find our entire summary of this press conference at www.industrialheating.com/SiemensPC.

    One of the legs of Ludwig’s three-legged economic-recovery stool is the next generation of manufacturing employees. We thought a brief discussion of this topic was in order. As we have covered in the past, and as is discussed in this month’s Federal Triangle, finding qualified people with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills has been an ongoing challenge for manufacturing companies. This is generally referred to as the skills gap, and it is defined as the difference between the skills a company needs and the skill levels of prospective candidates. More than half of a surveyed group of HR managers say they have positions for which they cannot find qualified candidates, with 46% saying positions went unfilled for more than three months. Nearly half of employers say they plan to train new hires lacking necessary skills or experience.

    Let’s take a look at what some companies and groups are doing to address this skills-gap issue. Starting with Siemens, they offer an apprenticeship program through Piedmont Community College in North Carolina. The company also has manufacturing initiatives with high schools in Georgia. As Mr. Ashby points out in his column, half of all STEM jobs do not require a four-year college degree. We have previously made the argument in this column that technical and trade schools can help bridge this gap, but our societal paradigm says that everyone must go to college. Get over it!

    Current manufacturing leadership is driving collaborations between learning institutions and businesses through the country. One example we found in our local area is called the Energy Innovation Center (EIC), located in Pittsburgh. EIC was designed and built to address two key issues facing manufacturing and our country: skills gap and energy. They will offer certificates and associate’s degrees, but curricula will also be customized to the needs of manufacturing and labor partners. Although not officially opening until later this year, EIC has already conducted on-site classes for corporations like Eaton and helped train members of Local 95 of the International Union of Operating Engineers. Check out eicpittsburgh.org to see what’s happening and to identify the stakeholders/partners.

    Government is also supporting the effort. The National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, which includes manufacturing firms, universities, community colleges and nonprofit organizations from Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, was launched in August 2012. The consortium was selected through a process led by the Department of Defense and received an initial $30 million in federal funding.

    If you are seeking one of the jobs we mentioned, as a reader of this magazine, you likely have an applicable skill set. There definitely are jobs out there for you, but STEM is not the only thing. All hiring managers are looking for the following traits in their new hires: good judgment, maturity, common sense, problem solving, clear thinking, initiative and professionalism. With STEM training and these key traits, the world is your oyster. IH