Printer Friendly

Changing workforce challenges skills training.

Changing workforce challenges skills training

Assessing skills--even of temporary workers--is important. Manpower Inc's Ultradex test battery includes a test that evaluates workers' bi-manual dexterity and ambidexterity, assessing the ability to use continuous, smooth movements of hands and arms. These skills are needed for jobs in machine operation and assembly.

There is no shortage of vision when it comes to discussing the need for training workers for tomorrow's metalworking manufacturing facilities.

Everyone's vision extends to the year 2000--and beyond. The basis for that vision was the landmark Hudson Institute Workforce 2000 study done in 1986. The workforce that is pictured is one that will be radically different demographically from the past:

* Minorities will make up one-quarter of the workforce;

* Women, minorities, and immigrants taken together will comprise 85% of new entrants to the workforce;

* The average age of the existing workforce will rise to 40 years of age versus today's 36.

Employers will manage a new "diverse" workforce that will not necessarily share the white male attitudes and work styles that are the norm today, according to Patricia A Galagan, editor of the American Society for Training & Development journal. Attendance, attitude, flexibility, willingness to learn new skills, and group/social team concepts will head the list of general requirements for these workers, according to the Alliance for Metalworking Education, Willoughby, OH.

The training challenge that metalworking manufacturers will face is the same one plaguing them today: entry-level job candidates who are deficient in the basic skills of math, reading, and communication.

According to Roger Sustar of Fredon Corp, Mentor, OH, many of these job candidates will come from the half of America's young people who end their academic careers with a high school diploma or less. Says Mr Sustar: "Unfortunately, many educators are ambivalent about the need to prepare better-educated future workers--they simply fall between the cracks when they are in school, drop out, or graduate inadequately prepared."

The litany of educational skill deficiencies of our young adults has been well documented. Here's a partial list compiled by the authors of Workplace 2000--The Revolution Reshaping American Business. According to studies cited by the authors, Joseph Boyett and Henry Conn, two A T Kearney consultants, less than a third of high school seniors knew what the Declaration of Independence is and who wrote the Emancipation Proclamation. Motorola reported that 80% of entry-level job candidates failed a test that required nothing more than seventh-grade English and fifth-grade math. Only one in five young adults could read a bus schedule, and only two out of five could figure the correct change for a $3 meal.

The training problem is an immediate one. The pool of workers to fill the roles of skilled machinists, tool and die makers, moldmakers, and the like is already in place--educational deficiencies and all--according to a Congressional Office of Technology Assessment study.

Apprenticeships die

The failure of our educational system has been matched, unfortunately, by the reluctance of manufacturers--both large and small--to devote the resources to its human capital in anything near the levels of our global competition. Overall, about 1.4% of the national payroll is spent on formal training and development with some large companies spending between 2% to 4%, a more acceptable level.

Germany spends twice as much as US companies because "employers can pool the costs and benefits of training through strong industry and trade associations," explains OTA's Margaret Hilton.

Some training is indispensable. Says James Wallbeoff, training director, NMTBA--The Association for Manufacturing Technology, "Large companies aren't going to turn a half-million dollar machine tool over to an unskilled and undertrained worker."

The fact is that large companies reduced their apprenticeship programs in the 1980s in a wave of cost-cutting moves, and interest in apprenticeship programs had waned as soon as the government's demonstration project money ran out in the late 1970s.

For their part, small companies, the group into which most contract machining companies fall, are still reluctant to invest in training because they fear that their trained personnel will be hired away by larger companies with better pay scales and better benefits.

The usual route to skills training is through a rigorous apprenticeship training program that combines practical experience with a technical education. The US ranks near the bottom among industrialized nations in the number of workers who have completed apprenticeships, with about 300,000 in registered programs and another 100,000 in unregistered programs, or 0.16% of the workforce, compared with 6.5% in Germany, according to OTA.

Typically, America's competitors devote more attention to preparing their young for the workforce--and at an earlier age. Apprenticeships are begun in the highly praised (and undemocratic) two-track German educational system at 16. American apprentices, by comparison, are older, in their early to mid-twenties, usually after they have washed out of college--if they attended at all.

The burden of completing their education falls to American companies, much the same way as it does in Japan where companies supply the practical, on-the-job training. The difference is that the Japanese student is solidly grounded in the basics.

Falling farther behind

The training gap begins to widen further on the job. New hires in the Japanese automotive industry receive more than 300 hours of training in their first six months of training on the job compared with less than 50 hours in US auto plants. Japanese transplants almost match that total with 250 hours of training for new hires. Though the gap shrinks somewhat for experienced employees, the Japanese still spend three times as much time on training than do their US auto-making counterparts, according to OTA.

American companies see the value or the need for training--as long as the decision is very obviously a strategic one. It was clearly a strategic issue for Inland Steel when the company sent all the employees of its new I/N Tek continuous cold mill joint-venture with Nippon Steel to Japan for training.

For Inland, it was an investment in philosophy of operation, as much as technology. The I/N Tek employees had to learn a new way of working together as well as the state-of-the-art technology that would produce quality cold-rolled steel that would open new markets to the steelmaker. Inland spent more than $30,000 per employee to send each member of the I/N Tek team to Japan for three months.

The problem is that most companies do not see training as a strategic issue. Individually it is very easy for them to make the decision not to commit funds and resources to training.

They do so at the risk of their global competitiveness, according to the Center on Wisconsin Strategy (at University of Wisconsin-Madison). Studying the skill needs and training strategies in the Wisconsin metalworking industry, the center points out that it isn't that increased skills are needed as much as baseline competencies in basic skills in the workforce.

In fact, the study notes, "rather than investing in training, most American firms have tended to withdraw from high-end markets. And those that remain in technology-intensive areas of manufacturing tend to respond to their human capital needs by acquiring larger forces of engineers (operating, in the American way, far from the shop floor), rather than upgrading their blue-collar workforce."

Those companies who do not communicate the excitement and opportunity that technology presents are in danger of falling farther behind, says Kris Brower, manager, Andersen Consulting. "We've got to get to the non-college-graduates earlier and show them how to become problem solvers working in a high-tech environment."

In just about everyone's vision, the new worker is a problem solver and a team player who is in sync with the company's overall business objectives. Workers need judgment and quantitative-problem-solving ability. Workers need to be able to read and write to understand what they read and apply it "immediately or risk production problems or downtime." They need to be able to question, recognize, and clarify the incorrect, extraneous, or misleading, according to OTA.

Successful programs

There are companies and industries attempting to fill the requirements of that vision. Here are some of them:

The apprenticeship program of the The Manufacturing Association (TMA), Chicago, annually graduates 200 to 300 tool and die makers, sheet-metal modelmakers, and machinists from the 700 to 800 in its apprenticeship program. TMA's apprenticeship offers four three-year programs: tool and die maker, precision machinist, moldmaker, and precision sheet-metal modelmaker. Through affiliation with three Chicago-area community colleges, its candidates work toward a two-year associates degree. TMA's program is industry developed and is widely cited as a model of what an apprenticeship program should be.

The National Tooling & Machining Association (NTMA), Ft Washington, MD, has provided pre-employment training for more than 20,000 people under Dept of Labor funding since 1964. This accelerated, full-time course lasts 12 weeks. Half the time is spent on hands-on training--learning the operation of milling machines, lathes, grinders, saws, and drill presses. The balance is devoted to classroom instruction in basic shop math, blueprint reading, machining theory, and benchwork skills. The program helps successful graduates find jobs.

Developed in conjunction with its pre-employment training, NTMA's specially developed 320-module Metalworking Training System (MTS) for machinist training is used throughout the country by other organizations. Twelve NTMA association chapters around the country currently own and operate training facilities to provide apprenticeship and journeymen training.

Robert Bosch Corp, Charleston, SC, has offered an apprenticeship program for the last three years selecting between 20 and 24 candidates from among 200 to 300 applicants from local schools. The apprentices spend eight hours a week during the first two and half years of the program at a nearby technical college. Students spend three to four days in the factory and one to two days in school for classroom instruction. When they complete their apprenticeship, the student graduates are assured a job with the company at a high hourly rate.

A consortium of 30 Rhode Island companies, called Mech Tech Inc, offers an apprenticeship program that gives candidates a wide range of experience. Apprentices rotate among the different companies, giving them work and skills experience in machine shops, tool and die houses, production companies, EDM centers, mold manufacturers, forgers, and pattern makers--much like apprenticeships of the past.

Over the apprenticeship period, each apprentice spends 8000 hours in precision metalworking, earns a Journeyman's Certificate from the state of Rhode Island, and an Associates of Applied Science degree from the community of Rhode Island. According to Robert Vincent, co-founder with Ernest Cormier of Mech Tech and president of Tedco, the Mech Tech concept is also working in Maryland and Massachusetts, and three other states are looking at the Mech Tech concept.

Two Pennsylvania entrepreneurs, Gary Kinkela and Ron Weishorn, have started up a for-profit training business called the Micro Teaching Factory (T&P May 1990, pg 12) that trains employees and apprentices in the use of machining--from the basics of machining and CNC to the most advanced concepts of CAD/CAM and CIM. Located in Monroeville, PA, the school has attracted student employees from more than 170 local companies.

Participating companies may send their trained employees back free of charge for a year to use the facility's equipment for their production jobs on a shared manufacturing basis. A nominal $10 per hour rate is charged thereafter.

Vendors who supplied their equipment benefit from the creation of--what Kinkela and Weishorn call--an "educated buyer of automation." The concept is catching on as another Micro Teaching Factory has opened in Bedford Hts, OH (Cleveland) and one has been announced for Cincinnati.

Need cooperation

The connection with formal educational institutions is still regarded as the lynchpin for future shared training. Technology is certainly the operative word. Says Fredon's Mr Sustar, companies have to become more involved with their local school systems by serving on business advisory councils and encouraging excellence in basics of machining through incentive awards and scholarships.

The CIM in Higher Education Alliance formed in 1988 and supported by IBM to advance manufacturing in a nationwide consortium of 75 two- and four-year colleges is a good example of that connection. The CIM-HE Alliance is mutually beneficial between IBM, the schools that share information among themselves, and local industry.

Each participating school receives IBM hardware and software valued at $500,000, plus consulting and technical support. The colleges offer CIM training to students and workers, and they also provide CIM demonstrations to local businesses.

The role of companies in educating the workforce will be even deeper if the assessment of the National Center on Education and the Economy, and American Society for Training & Development is correct. Their study, Training America, calls an employer-based learning system "the missing link in the nation's human capital development system."

Greater involvement in the educational process by the state and local government sectors is already evident, according to Paul Amann, vice president/general manager, Emco Maier Corp, Columbus, OH. His company's downsized CNC lathes, milling machines, and turning machines have been used to train almost two million people in industry and in schools on programming and flexible machining systems. They also have been used in specialized training programs by industry. A good example was at GM's Saturn plant where machine operators, and maintenance and engineering personnel all trained on Emco Maier machines.

Pool is shallow

Any assumption that there is a ready and willing supply of candidates for skilled machining training in the workforce is probably in error. The reality may be otherwise simply because manufacturing facilities still suffer from an image problem. The NMTBA says that they still may be regarded as "difficult, dirty, and dangerous" by many in the emerging workforce, an assessment that NMTBA says is "a bum rap for any modern facility."

NMTBA has established a two-year scholarship program for students enrolled in a manufacturing-technology-related associates degree program. Up to $2000 per year is paid to academic institutions by NMTBA for tuition, books, and related academic fees for each student in the program. One scholarship is awarded for each participating member company. Each member company works with the college to select a student to receive the scholarship. The program replaces NMTBA's four-year scholarships for manufacturing engineers.

NMTBA is also fostering interest in excellence in skilled machining by working closely with the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America and participating in the VICA US Skill Olympics Precision Machining Competitions. Seventy-eight students competed in the precision machining competition at IMTS-90 to choose finalists for the International Youth Skill Olympics held in the Netherlands last month.

Getting the word out

Here's how other machining and tooling organizations are promoting the attractiveness and rewards of a career in precision machining:

The Precision Metalforming Association (PMA), Richmond Hts, OH, has taken its message to viewers of cable TV as well as to educational institutions. The new 12-minute video, A Part of Your Life, which is being commercially distributed by Modern Talking Pictures, Chicago, IL, has already been seen by millions of cable TV viewers. What they see is how metalformers are essential to every manufacturing industry from aerospace products to safety pins.

The National Tooling & Machining Association, with 3200 member contract tooling and machining shops, has produced a video called Tooling a Winning Economy, which captures the essence of an industry that employs more than 300,000 highly skilled technicians in 15,000 small companies.

Salaries of skilled machinists tend to be the highest in manufacturing, according the NTMA's Mark Jeschke. A BLS listing of 26 of the highest paying positions ranked tool and die makers seventh, he notes. NTMA's annual National Apprentice Contest draws entries from across the country who compete for prizes valued at more than $100,000 to take a concept from blueprint to finished machined part to exacting specifications.

The salary opportunity in machining and tool and die making is the focus of the The Tooling & Manufacturing Association's video titled How Valuable Is Your Future?

According to Jerry Baginski, TMA director of education, the answer to that question is impressive when you consider that a typical apprentice could earn nearly $20,000 during the first year of apprenticeship and enter a career where earnings range typically between $35,000 and $50,000 a year.

The role for the metalworking industry is spelled out by Michael Y Bailis, director, vocational and technical education at Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland, OH:

* Increase the marketing of metalworking careers to the public.

* Provide incentives for women, minorities, and immigrants to prepare themselves to pursue metalworking careers.

PHOTO : Training needs equipment. Emco Maier F1-CNC milling machine has all the standard features common to full size CNC production machines for educational and industrial training programs.

PHOTO : Training seminars in basic metrology are on the rise. Many of these education programs are sponsored by equipment manufacturers. One such company, Mitutoyo, offers various subjects from gage block care to the proper way to hold and operate a micrometer.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Lorincz, James
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Jul 1, 1991
Previous Article:Clean workpieces boost productivity.
Next Article:Euro-directions: Germans share their technology.

Related Articles
Good help is harder to find.
Finally: A Cure for the Skills Gap.
The big picture.
The workforce of tomorrow: what will Indiana employers need from the worker of the future? (Workforce Development).
Growth of hispanics in rural workforce.
A message from the U.S. Secretary of Labor.
Developing a competency-based organization: applying the Navy's uniformed human capital concepts to the civilian workforce.
What keeps managers awake at night? Workforce development.
Workforce development must respond to change.
Growing your own staff key to workforce change.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters