SPECIAL FEATURE: Education/Training - Assessing the Value of Training
For the U.S. to compete globally, it is essential to train the moldmaking workforce in its skill and technology.
|Although it is painfully obvious that the manufacturing base in this country is in a state of crisis, there is still hope. Part of the reason manufacturing in this country seems to be disappearing-and a good portion of it has in fact left this country-is that the competitors can do it faster and cheaper. One way to combat the cheaper is to keep jobs here by doing them more cost-effectively.
Keeping our manufacturing workforce educated and up to speed on technology is key to competing globally. The graduates of any technical school should be turnkey ready. This means that they are equipped with the necessary skills to be successful and are eager to work, tooled with the latest technology. Even though there is a predicted shortage of upcoming workers to replace those who are soon to retire, it is my prediction that the people who are getting up to speed today will be holding the ace cards in the future. Upcoming workers will need to be more highly trained, with a different skill-set than before.
There is a pitfall, however, with regard to industry training. It can sometimes be difficult for an employer to send an employee somewhere for training if the employee does not want to do it on his or her own time. Regardless of where training comes from, it needs to occur if we want to keep our workforce current. It is understandable that some employers' point of view is "I train them, then they leave." Perhaps so, but that person did serve you and must have been productive enough to justify the training. If that person leaves, at least there is an educated employee in the workforce.
Building a Stronger Workforce
Traditionally, this trade has been migrational. A skilled employee helps build a stronger workforce as a whole. From the employee's side, combining work and school is hard; I see it every day. But you are investing in your security in the future, but maybe not at the same employer until retirement. At least you will still have an ever-growing skill set that has proven quite lucrative in the past, providing you keep your skill set sharp.
If formal training is not an option, an alternative is learning from trade magazines. Make it a course requirement that each student or employee reads an article relative to his or job or industry. This is very effective and creates very interesting conversation.
Another potential stumbling block for some is age. Many older workers are hesitant to start school again because of their age. This should not be of any negative concern to them. There are students in full-time programs that are within years of retirement who refuse to take any early retirement and are very determined to re-enter the metalworking workforce with vim and vigor. Age, sex, ethnic background or economic status should not stop someone from furthering his or her knowledge base or skill set. The students leaving schools today are quite up to speed. If they aren't, an employer should be contacting or, better still, becoming actively involved in local technical schools. If employers contact their local area technical school and ask if they can participate on an advisory board or steering committee, they will be met with open arms. This participation is critical; without it, technical schools have a hard time determining what skills are needed and what equipment should be used. Industry truly is the driving force that should be directing technical education. If you are lacking employees with the right skills, contacting your local technical school can help students reach that skill set before they enter the workforce. Participation is critical.
Observing the Environment Around You
One simple training tactic, that can be implemented by the employer and employee, and which is cost-free, is paying attention to what is happening in the industry. Take a look at the overall process; look at the shape of the chip, the condition of the insert, the sound of the tool and machine motion. Can this be improved? If you think it can, discuss it and weigh out the options. There are no dumb suggestions. At least it shows an effort to improve the process and cut costs.
Whether you are an employer or employee, educate yourself on the cutting that is being done. Tool catalogs are an excellent source of tool-specific cutting applications. Know your speeds and feeds and keep up on them as technology changes-and it changes fast.
Remember, training is a global issue and if we don't have a strong workforce our manufacturing sector will continue to slip away.
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