It is easy for big city editors and academics to broadly dismiss the real issues that employers face as we try to find and hire skilled workers. There are systemic disincentives and cultural issues that are discouraging people from getting the skills that could lead to a great career in precision machining and advanced manufacturing.
PMPA President and Member Darlene Miller, President and CEO of Permac Industries in Burnsville, MN was mentioned  in INC Magazine’s Latest Article on the Skills Gap.

Graduates of jobs training programs are being hired on the spot
Graduates of jobs training programs are being hired on the spot

The article shares the success of Darlene Miller’s efforts  to jump start the creation of a training program for machinists in her area.
“Darlene Miller, CEO and owner of Permac Industries in Burnsville and a former member of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, contacted the Manufacturing Institute to develop a fast-track program, Right Skills Now. Area companies worked closely with two community colleges to create a 24-week intensive course, including internship, that launched in October 2012.
So far, businesses are happy with the result; graduates “are scarfed up as soon as they finish,” Miller says. The program has spread to eight states; four groups of 18 to 20 people have finished in Minnesota, with a placement rate approaching 95 percent.”
But the INC Article  glosses over some very critical issues in an attempt to poo-poo the fact that “there are issues finding people for specific jobs in specific industries;” and states that in the workforce as a whole there is no skills gap.
Issue: Schools are not preparing students for careers in advanced manufacturing. Check..

  • Weak math skills in applicants,
  •  Inability to use ruler, let alone micrometers or more sophisticated gaging,
  •  Lack of shop classes in most school districts.

These are facts that we face with most applicants right out of school.
Issue: Unmotivated workforce. Check.

  • Workforce participation rate has never been lower since they started keeping track of it.
  • Why work when you can collect benefits? 
  • Our shop owners report that many applicants are just going through the motions since they still have many weeks of extended federal benefits.
  • Also many applicants can’t pass a drug test. One PMPA member told me that they lost 2/3 of their new hires within a year  for either drugs or failure to show up to work as scheduled.

This is reality. Generous unemployment benefits and their extension provide a disincentive to people to work.
Issue: Employers aren’t training. Hogwash.

  • Our shops provide many forms of training to our new hires as well as our established employees.
  • Many provide training in house through ToolingU.
  • Many have arrangements with local schools to provide coursework on premises.
  • Many have tuition Reimbursement Programs.
  • Also, PMPA provides CEU recognition to member company employees who attend association provided training events.

It is easy for big city editors and academics to broadly dismiss the real issues that employers face as we try to find and hire skilled workers.Skilled workers to add value in our advanced manufacturing precision machining shops. But the facts that our shop owners face daily establish that there is a skills gap in our industry. Despite the best efforts of our company managements, trade association, and community colleges to make a difference, there are systemic disincentives and cultural issues that are discouraging people from getting the skills that could lead to a great career in precision machining and advanced manufacturing.
 What are you doing to address the skills gap? How do you see the skills gap in your efforts to add talent?
Photo credits INC Magazine

Right Skills Now will provide fast-track training for skilled manufacturing jobs- starting with  entry level precision machinists.

Right Skills Now for manufacturing

According to a Skills Gap study by the Manufacturing Institute, more than 80 percent of U.S. manufacturers can’t find qualified people for the nearly 600,000 skilled production jobs that are currently unfilled.

For American manufacturing to be successful, employers need machinists that have the right skills, and they need those skills now. That is the impetus for a new, fast-track education initiative called Right Skills Now.

The program is an accelerated, 16-week training course for operators of precision machining equipment. It provides classroom and hands-on shop experience to prepare students for immediate employment. It also allows individuals to earn college credit and national industry certifications.

One of the founders of Right Skills Now is Darlene Miller, CEO and owner of Permac Industries in Burnsville, Minn. She helped launch the training program for CNC machinists in her home state.  PMPA provides staff support to Ms. Miller’s PCJC work. Miles Free, Director of Industry Research and Technology helped develop an initial outline of the curriculum to assure relevance to today’s advanced manufacturing shops.

Darlene Miller Announces Right Skills Now At President's Job Council Listening and Action Session at Productivity Inc, in Minnesota

As a small business owner representing the manufacturing sector, Ms. Miller was asked to serve for two years on the President’s Council for Jobs and Competitiveness. The Jobs Council is comprised of citizens chosen to provide non-partisan advice to the President to help foster economic growth, competitiveness, innovation and job creation.

According to Ms. Miller, the first time she met with President Obama, she was asked to talk about the economy as it related to manufacturing and small business. “One of the things I said to the President was, ‘Not every student needs to go to college,’ she says.

“He had recently made a speech saying that every student should go to college. But he later agreed that while not all students must go to college, they do need some educational training beyond high school.

“I told him that in the precision machining industry, we have an urgent need for skilled people,” Ms. Miller continues. “We can’t afford to take just anyone off the street, provide some training and then put that person in a machining job.”

Despite the nation’s high unemployment rate, attracting workers with machining skills has been difficult for small manufacturers. “Because of the recession, we’re all strapped financially,” Ms. Miller explains. “We need people that have math skills. Our equipment is very high-tech, and our customers expect zero ppm performance so we can’t afford to hire someone that hasn’t had technical training.

“It is critical that new hires have the necessary math and safety skills to understand and operate the machines,” she adds. “There is so much more involved now than there was 10 years ago.”

Serving on the Jobs Council with Ms. Miller are some of the country’s top corporate leaders from GE, American Express and DuPont. After the council meeting with the President, the members were divided into sub-committees. Ms. Miller was asked to co-chair the High-tech Education Sub-committee with Intel’s CEO, Paul Otellini.

The group held meetings and brought in two of Minnesota’s technical schools—Dunwoody College of Technology and South Central College. The sub-committee was also able to elicit help from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM); the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS); and American College Testing (ACT), the company that developed the testing for applicants. The program has also received funding from the Joyce Foundation.

“To make this work, there had to be a partnership between the business community, the technical schools and organizations like NAM, NIMS and ACT,” Ms. Miller emphasizes.

This photo shows a small fraction of the almost 200 attendees for the launch of Right Skills Now.

To be eligible for the program, applicants have to pass the ACT test, which is geared towards the machining industry. If an individual doesn’t qualify for the program the first time, there are remedial classes available.

“Problem-solving is huge part of the curriculum,” Ms. Miller says. “There is a mix of both classroom learning and shop time. After sixteen weeks, the student will intern at a manufacturing company for eight weeks.

“That person can stay with the company and continue his or her education in a specific field,” she adds. Some go into programming, Swiss machining or advanced CNC skills.   Others may end up as operations managers, quality managers or even entrepreneurs.

“We intend to replicate Right Skills Now nationally,” Ms. Miller sums up. “It’s not just for CNC machinists. It can be used for nearly any job skill. The program is so well-defined and accredited, it can be tweaked very easily to train anyone from welders to healthcare technicians.”

Click this link for more information on Right Skills Now,