Training Solutions

As the problem persists, so do the counter-efforts

I had to check to see how many times in this newsletter we’ve mentioned the issue of finding new, properly trained individuals. It’s 37, in merely nine months of publishing Direct & Current (for parameters, we counted any time the terms ‘skills gap’ or ‘training’ were mentioned). That alone is one pretty clear representation of how prominent the issue has been, and is, in the manufacturing industry. The consolation is, one of the reasons it keeps getting play (not just from us) is due to the myriad of solutions and creative propositions that continue to be tried and offered by those affected.

In Ohio, Jergens, Inc. is blending a traditional style of educational outreach with a new appeal. It has created an extended classroom with a full CNC machining facility.ST001800

Jack Schron, CEO of Jergens, has a built a state-of-the art CNC machining cell at the company’s main plant in Cleveland, with intentions to use it for the greater good. The cell is open for use by area schools, material science engineers, tooling companies and just about anyone else with a product to test or a student to teach in the ways of modern manufacturing, Schron told Dan Shingler of Crain’s Cleveland Business.  “It shows kids that the manufacturing space is alive and well,” Schron said in an interview with Shingler. “This is an extension of the classroom for the schools, and it’s an extension of the R&D department for companies.”

Having a machine dedicated to students allows for hands-on experience and testing demonstrations, as described by one of the intermediaries, Dave Neylon, a CNC instructor at Max Hayes High School in Cleveland. “We can bring a project out there to work on, and it gets them into the surrounding of all the people working at Jergens,” Neylon told Shingler. “Doing a field trip is one thing, when you’re walking around as a guest. But when you’re in front of a machine, working in that environment, you get a better feel for what it’s like to work in that industry. I would definitely be interested in that.”

Justin Bateman, the company’s project manager in charge of FastForward, addressed the task at hand for manufacturing companies hoping to lure younger individuals into the trade:

“Why is manufacturing important? Why is it cool? Why would you want to have a career in it? That’s what we want to address with students,” Bateman said in an interview with Crain’s. “So we created this space, which I think is exceptionally cool. … We want to provide an ignition point for young people who have become disassociated with manufacturing.”

Several companies already have used the machine to test and demonstrate cutting tools, Schron said, and educators from area high schools and Case Western Reserve University have been out to see it.

Meanwhile, Franklin Electric (Wilburton, Okla.) is offering employment through college sponsorship.

The company, a provider of systems and components for moving water and fuel, whose Wilburton facility employs 275 people, recently joined forces with Oklahoma State University’s Institute of Technology to tackle the training problem. The plant is built around three main product lines: electric motors, water pumps and control boxes. Interested candidates can be sponsored by Franklin Electric and receive up to $1,500 based on their academic performance as well as a paid internship at Franklin Electric. Sponsorship leads to full-time employment upon satisfactory completion of the internship and graduation from OSUIT.

Facility management at Franklin had previously, like so many other American manufacturing facilities, invested time and money to train new employees with no CNC experience how to maintain, operate and repair the machinery. Some of those times, the investment would be to no avail; others, these employees would parlay the experience and training to ultimately take jobs in larger markets.
One thing is clear, as long as the training problem persists, those who truly want to see their industries and businesses survive will never stop looking for solutions.
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