Educators participating in the Industry 4.0 Teacher Academy seemed surprised and reassured that even the advanced manufacturing sector—with high-tech environments that depend on coding, robots, and the like—offers employment opportunities for students without 4-year degrees.
“The trend is toward skills-based hiring,” Catalyst Connection’s Director of Workforce Initiatives, Scott Dietz, interjected as attendees peppered business representatives with questions about qualifications following a panel discussion during the program’s second session. “It doesn’t matter whether you have a degree, it’s whether you have the skills.”
Catalyst Connection collaborated with the Consortium to offer Industry 4.0. The second of three sessions took place at Robert Morris University (RMU). It followed a kickoff at Hazelwood’s Mill 19, where both Catalyst Connection’s offices and Carnegie Mellon University’s Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute are located. A third session took place at the Digital Foundry, where teachers continued to discover ways of incorporating future readiness activities into their classes. Educators will reconvene in the fall to continue planning implementation of new learning strategies focused on emerging technologies.
Presenters at the sessions said jobs available to those without degrees are as disparate as welding and coding and can be learned through apprenticeships, certificate programs, or even on-the-job training. They also emphasized that their companies are looking for soft skills like communication and problem-solving as much as they are for technical skills.
A business representative from Schroeder Industries, for example, recommended that students “take time to learn to communicate without a device.”
Another, from Penn United Technologies, suggested that participation in extra-curricular activities and part-time jobs can help convey to employers that a job candidate has developed some time-management skills and reliability.
“It tells us they showed up,” he said.
In addition to helping educators get an understanding of what skills employers are seeking in the advanced manufacturing sector, Industry 4.0 also showcased resources for introducing students to concepts and careers, including multiple programs that Catalyst Connection offers such as the Manufacturing Innovation Challenge, the What’s So Cool About Manufacturing? video contest, and the Industrial Manufacturing Technician Pre-Apprenticeship program.
Sarah Danny, a Franklin Regional Middle School STEM teacher, said experiencing the different settings that participants visited and hearing from industry representatives helped equip her to introduce students to career opportunities they might not otherwise think about.
“I’m looking for ways to help them see themselves in these roles,” particularly if they’re non-traditional candidates, she said.