Students heard about apprenticeships and on-site training as potential career paths.
The Northeast Manufacturers Employer Forum took place recently at Community College of Philadelphia’s campus at 12901 Townsend Road, and the locals learned some lessons from the Germans.
In fact, the forum’s theme was “Lessons from Germany: Understanding apprenticeships and on-the-job training models for employers in manufacturing.”
The event was sponsored by the city Department of Commerce, Citizen Diplomacy International of Philadelphia and Philadelphia Works.
A delegation from Frankfurt, Germany, a sister city of Philadelphia, joined in the conversation. The delegation was led by Frankfurt Lord Mayor Peter Feldmann.
The forum attracted Mayor Jim Kenney, City Councilmen Bobby Henon and Al Taubenberger, Councilwoman Cherelle Parker, Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce president Pam Henshall and Tom Forkin, a manufacturing company employee and aide to state Rep. Mike Driscoll.
Torsten Schimanski, a German apprenticeship model expert, told the crowd that there will be 3.5 million manufacturing jobs in the United States in 2025. Of that total, 2 million will be unfilled.
While some might call that a “skills gap,” Schimanski sees it as an “opportunity.” As to the question of whether apprenticeships are the answer to the job openings, Schimanski said, “Jein,” a German word translated to “yes and no.”
Apprenticeships will lead to job placements, he said, if the apprentices are paid and initially take part in a pre-apprentice program.
Schimanski quoted Richard Branson, the British billionaire and philanthropist, who says, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”
Ralf Weiser, project manager at Aerzen USA, a global manufacturer of blowers, compressors and vacuum pumps, said employees are needed to combat the “gray tsunami,” or aging workforce.
Tatjana Van Pee, who works in economic development in the German state of Hesse, said her nation’s focus on education has led to a low unemployment rate of 7 percent among youth. The rate averages 19 percent across the rest of Europe.
Van Pee said Germans follow the lead of a former American president, John F. Kennedy, who said, “There is only one thing in the long run more expensive than education: no education.”
Kenney is impressed with the German focus on apprenticeships.
“Their system makes sense,” he said.
Patrick Clancy, president & CEO of Philadelphia Works, the city’s workforce development board, thanked Sandi King, the longtime commerce department business service manager in the Northeast for her work with local companies.
Philadelphia welcomes manufacturers.
“We’re open for business,” Clancy said.
Stuart Bass, executive director of Keystone Development Partnership, which was created by the AFL-CIO, worked 20 years as a welder, including at SEPTA. The job paid well.
In his current job, Bass promotes registered apprenticeships that lead to better productivity and decreased turnover for employers and higher wages for employees.
“There are many benefits that come with that designation,” he said. ••