(For the Salt Lake Tribune. Kimberlee Carlile is the Director of Industry and Talent Initiatives in the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development)

These days, the talk of the job market is all about advanced manufacturing. One may ask, how do prospective employees break into this field? In addition, what kinds of skills do they need to take advantage of this rapidly evolving and exciting area of expertise?

Thankfully, legislation working its way through Congress promises to open doors to exciting career paths in this field for today’s workforce and future generations of innovators. Congress is working to expand opportunities through the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, which is designed to promote and encourage programs just like Utah Aerospace Pathways – across the country.

That legislation, which recently passed the House of Representatives with strong bipartisan support, would help states expand technical education programs. It would greatly increase employer engagement in those programs to ensure that students are learning the skills most urgently needed in today’s workforce. It also would expand work-based learning opportunities such as apprenticeship and paid internship programs to high school students. All pathways to good jobs that don’t happen to run through four year colleges.

Now, it is time for the Senate to act on this critical issue.

Because as much as we hear from people who can’t find good jobs, we hear even more from businesses across Utah and the United States about the high-skilled, good-paying jobs they are unable to fill simply because they can’t find people with the technical skillsets required of the position.

It was this challenge that inspired Gov. Gary Herbert to launch his Talent Ready Utah efforts, which have now grown into programs such as Utah Aerospace Pathways. The program has also been expanded to include an adult learner program, aimed at providing a pathway for individuals seeking career transition opportunities in the aerospace field.

One only has to look at the example of Boeing here in Utah to understand why such a program was needed. Boeing is one of the largest manufacturers in the country and a leading employer in Utah with nearly 1,000 employees in our state. When most people think of jobs at a company like Boeing, they think of rocket scientists and aerospace engineers. While Boeing employs many folks in those jobs with advanced degrees, thousands of the company’s innovators have received the training required outside of the traditional college and university system.

In Utah that includes jobs such as fabrication specialists and assembly technicians. At the company’s three factories in the state, these employees are critical to building the composite Vertical Fins and Horizontal Stabilizers for the 787 Dreamliner airplane and they help operate sheet metal forming and machining tools, which are used in the assembly flight deck structures for all Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Read More….