Advanced Manufacturing Consortium: Addressing the Skilled Labor Shortage

“Programs like these are working on rebranding manufacturing into a more computerized and clean environment views—and most important—jobs that will lead to other careers, such as designing, supervision, quality and/or leadership.”


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In 2011, Kalamazoo Community College/Groves Center (KVCC; Kalamazoo, MI) reached out to 26 local companies and seven service provider organizations to help the college develop an integrated model to attract, screen and train qualified candidates for current and future Advanced Manufacturing career opportunities in Southwest Michigan.

According to Trish Schroeder, Director of Corporate Training at Groves Center, after a series of meetings the Advanced Manufacturing Consortium formed four workgroups:
1.    Recruitment—with a focus on how to recruit more potential candidates into manufacturing
2.    Screening—with a focus on key elements needed for a community-wide, talent-based screening tool
3.    Training—with a focus on the key elements of a competency-based assessment and training model for Advanced Manufacturing
4.    Implementation—with a focus on how all pieces of the program are fitting together, and next steps necessary to launch the project

“The manufacturing sector needs skilled workers,” Schroeder states. “As the nation recovers from the Great Recession, manufacturers are leading the way in job growth. Technological advances, which have enabled companies to compete with low-cost manufacturers around the world have also created challenges. Workers in Advanced Manufacturing are required to possess specific abilities and characteristics. Unlike many other entry-level employment opportunities, manufacturing continues to be a leader in providing on-the-job training, sponsorship of apprenticeships, and payment for continued education and career advancement. Manufacturing employers in the Kalamazoo and St. Joseph county area have worked together as the Advanced Manufacturing Career Consortium in an effort to address their need to recruit, train and hire new workers.”

A direct result of the consortium’s work is the formation of the Production Technician Academy— six-week, fast-track training designed to provide people with an easy way to gain entry-level skills for careers in moldmaking and manufacturing. Dave Martin, President of Portage, MI-based Accu-Mold, Inc. and a member of the consortium, believes it is an innovative approach to address the skilled labor shortage. “Employers want soft skills in their employees—like being problem solvers, having a sense of urgency, intelligence and knowing what is right and wrong before they get hired,” Martin states. “Just showing up for work does not impress anymore. We live in a world economy and compete with people and technology. No more hiring and hoping they show for work, and have drive and intelligence.”
Schroeder notes that the program’s goal is to deliver accelerated training programs in the form of corporate training (target company incumbent workers) and academies (target individuals seeking skill certifications to prepare them for employment).

Participants attend class Monday through Friday for four-and-a-half weeks with an average class size of 16. Students who complete a class receive a certificate of completion and a transcript of competencies, which Schroeder explains is a description of skill sets signed by instructors that can serve as a reference to prospective employers.

“The units of study that make up each training module are presented in a sequence, which assures a theoretical foundation and an opportunity to practice or observe the technology in use in the learning lab,” Schroeder states. “The program combines lecture, demonstration and
laboratory exercises to facilitate learning. Safe work practices are stressed and consistently
practiced. Industry leaders will guide and direct the entrance criteria and curriculum, which
adjusts constantly to keep up with changes in technology.”

The following are the courses in the program: Advanced Manufacturing Industry Introduction, Safety Training, Lean Manufacturing, Team Workgroup Participation, Applied Math Fundamentals, Industrial Blueprint Reading, Precision Measurement, Quality Management, Statistical Process Control,  Root Cause Analysis/Problem Solving, Mechanical Concepts, Electrical Fundamentals, Introduction to Programmable Logic Control, Basic Industrial Fluid Power, Job Search and Interviewing and Computer Usage Integration.

Martin of Accu-Mold is confident that the consortium’s efforts with the Production Technician Academy will be fruitful. “Programs like these are working on rebranding manufacturing into a more computerized and clean environments—and most important—jobs that will lead to other careers, such as designing, supervision, quality and/or leadership,” he emphasizes. “Today’s world of manufacturing is a career—not a job!”

For More Information

Accu-Mold, Inc. / (269) 323-0388
dave@accu-moldinc.com / accu-moldinc.com

Kalamazoo Valley Community College / (269) 353-1253
pschroeder@kvcc.edu / kvcc.edu


Consortium Members

The following 26 companies and seven service support organizations comprise the Advanced Manufacturing Consortium.

AccroSeal / accroseal.com
Accu-Mold / accu-moldinc.com
American Axle / aam.com
Chemlink /chemlink.com
Dimplex Thermal / dimplexthermal.com
Eliason Corporation / eliasoncorp.com
Fabri-Kal / fabri-kal.com
Fab-Masters /aluminum-fabrication-welding.com
Flowserve /flowserve.com
Graphic Packaging / graphicpkg.com
Humphrey Products / humphrey-products.com
Hydro Aluminum / hydro.com
Kadant Johnson / kadant.com
Kaiser Aluminum / kaiseraluminum.com
Landscape Forms / landscapeforms.com
Mall City Containers / mallcitycontainers.com
MANN+HUMMEL / mannhummel.com
Marshall Plastic Film / marshallplastic.com
Micro Machine /micromachineco.com
Parker Hannifin / parker.com
Perrigo / perrigo.com
Pfizer / pfizer.com
Schupan & Sons / schupan.com
Stryker Medical / stryker.com
Stryker Instruments / stryker.com/en-us/products/instruments/index.htm
Tru-Tech Industries / trutechsystems.com

Service Support Organizations:
Glen Oaks / glenoaks.edu
HRM Innovations /hrminnovationsllc.com
KRESA / kresa.org
KVCC / kvcc.edu
MI Works! / mitalent.org
Sturgis EDC /sturgisdevelopment.com
Southwest MI First /southwestmichiganfirst.com