One strategy to address the high skilled worker shortage is to engage local youth from area school districts like Township Districts 211 and 214 in northwest suburban Chicago in early internship opportunities.
A widespread misconception is that hiring any youth under 18 is against the law. According to Marvin Thomas, Department of Labor Child Labor Investigator and Marlene Budge, DOL apprenticeship training representative, this may not be true in all cases. Students ages 16 and 17 years old, who meet exemption qualifications, like being enrolled in bona fide skill development programs in high school, may be hired to work in specific capacities in many manufacturing facilities.
In an effort to help area manufacturers tap into the future workforce of area youth ages 16 and 17, the Golden Corridor Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (GCAMP) and Sandvik Coromant of Schaumburg, co-sponsored a child labor law workshop last week.
About 30 people attended, ranging from manufacturing business owners to educators, to learn critical information from the DOL Chicago office reps. Local manufacturers Felsomat and Bingaman addressed questions regarding their experiences with employing and training area youth.
The message transmitted was "Don't steal your workforce, grow it." Poaching high-skilled workers from competitors drives up wages in an apparent zero sum game. Attendees were encouraged instead, to consider introducing students to manufacturing careers through established internship programs or summer employment opportunities.
A key element for successful youth employment is coordination with area high schools. In order to meet the DOL exemption status, students must be engaged in bona fide workplace learning pathways. Students meeting the exemption qualification may be permitted to perform operations such as milling, turning, planing, grinding and boring.
For information about the wage and hour child labor law, call (312) 789-2950 and visit www.GCAMP.org and check under the news section on this topic.