In the last few weeks there have been a slew of announcements regarding increased investment in specialized courses in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) at the elementary, high school, and college level to address the skilled worker shortage in North America. Here’s an example of increased STEM spending from my home state of Washington, where the local aerospace industry is critical to the economy—and where aging workers are a huge issue.
It is worth noting that the solutions proposed in recent new stories are all formal education and certificate programs. There is no doubt that these investments are a minimum down-payment on keeping the Puget Sound area, and other areas across North America, competitive 10+ years out. But what are businesses to do between now and when these programs come online and begin churning out qualified workers? What about retaining the secret sauce of our aging workers before they retire? And what more immediate efforts we can take to increase the skill levels and critical knowledge of our current workers?
As business leaders we need to mitigate our workforce risks by also implementing near-term and on-the-job solutions that can pass on skills and retain the unique knowledge of our workers today.Knowledge transfer techniques and solutions are designed to do just this: to quickly and simply help today’s experts break their critical skills, wisdom, and tacit knowledge down into manageable chunks and teach this content to their current co-workers, in the most objective and measurable ways possible.
North American companies are already competing with each other to hire today’s graduates entering the workforce. While the recently proposed STEM programs will ease some of that tension in the future, no one is predicting a surplus of technical talent. Preparing to onboard recent hires and then retaining them once they’re up to speed is another reason why knowledge transfer has to be at the forefront of the equation.
SUMMARY: Companies with an aging workforce or skilled worker shortage have to plan for near-term AND long-term solutions. Build a pipeline of talent thru formal education and get that same talent hired, onboarded, and productive thru knowledge transfer.