Seeding the work force

Even as U.S. manufacturing jobs move off-shore, some business leaders fear that the available domestic work force may not be adequately prepared to perform the jobs that advanced manufacturing requires. A dearth of qualified skilled workers, they fear, could stifle growth in the Western Pennsylvania manufacturing sector as readily as foreign competition might.

“This group of people, I’ll say it’s high school educated through (graduates of) two-year technical schools, is really the backbone of manufacturing industries in the United States, and I think we neglect that group,” says Chuck Gregory, president of Sony Technology Center-Pittsburgh.

Gregory is concerned that if the available labor pool lacks the proper skills, Sony Pittsburgh and other advanced manufacturing companies in the region may find it difficult to expand their operations.

That’s one reason Sony Pittsburgh isn’t sitting by and hoping that someone else takes the initiative to improve the worker-readiness situation. Ongoing at the plant are several efforts to engage students and the educational system in modern manufacturing.

“We have a program with one of the area high schools called the Star Program, where we sponsor about 12 students a year,” says Hyman Lee, Sony Pittsburgh’s vice president of human resources.

The Star Program involves students in manufacturing projects and awards scholarships to outstanding participants.

Sony also participates in the Manufacturing Pathway Initiative, a program that brings paid high school interns into the workplace, and a job shadowing effort that brings vocational education teachers into Sony to introduce them to modern manufacturing techniques.