Archive for November, 2013

Is There Really Free Career Technical Training?

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Yes, there is, at least in California. I was recently given a tour of the San Diego Continuing Education headquarters facility by Dean Jane Signaigo-Cox and Vice President Brian Ellison. Continuing Education is the new name for what we used to call Adult Education where you could go back to school to get your high school diploma or take enrichment classes in art, cooking, foreign languages, sewing, etc.

While these types of classes are still being offered to adults over the age of 18, it is now possible to get technical job training and even certification in a variety of careers, such as automotive, computers, electronics, graphics, upholstery, pipe fitting, and welding. Unbelievably, these classes are free in California.

In 2006, then Governor Schwarzenegger identified workforce skills development, referred to as Career Technical Education (CTE), as a state priority. The passage of an education bond provided $500 million for CTE initially, and subsequent budgets have continued to fund the program. The plan was approved by the California State Board of Education on March 12, 2008 and approved by the U.S. Department of Education on July 1. CTE is delivered primarily through K-12 schools, adult-education programs, and community-college programs. CTE programs are closely linked with those of workforce and economic development agencies and industry and rely on the participation of community-based organizations. The programs are as follows:

California K-12/Adult Programs

  • Elementary school awareness and middle school introductory CTE programs.
  • High school CTE, offered through 1,165 high schools in single courses, in course sequences or through over 300 integrated “learning communities.”
  • Career pathways and programs through 74 regional occupational centers and programs.
  • Adult education offered through 361 adult schools and more than 1,000 sites.
  • Apprenticeship offered through more than 200 apprenticeship program and adult schools

The Continuing Education Center I visited is under the jurisdiction of the San Diego Community College District, but all of the California Community Colleges throughout the county and state offer the following programs. 

  • Occupational programs at 109 colleges, leading to certificates, associate degrees, and transfers to four-year universities.
  • Noncredit instruction for short-term CTE programs offered by 58 colleges.
  • More than 160 apprenticeship programs at 39 colleges.
  • Middle College High Schools (13) and Early College High Schools (19).
  • Tech Prep programs delivered through 80 Tech Prep consortia, comprising 109 colleges and their feeder high schools.
  • Contract education provided to organizations for their employees.

San Diego’s Continuing Education program has been making history since 1914, when it started providing job training for returning military veterans from WWI. Year after year, more than 74,000 students are served annually by the seven Continuing Education campuses and many offsite community locations throughout the city of San Diego.In 2013, more than 3,600 students received Certificates of Completion for programs through San Diego Continuing Education (accreditation through the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the highest level of accreditation a California school or college can receive.)

According to Jane Signaigo-Cox, who oversees many of these career technical programs, “more than 1800 of the certificates awarded were for these Career Technical Education job training programs. Since students spend an average of 65 to 70 percent of course time using hands on tools and technology to learn relevant skills for today’s jobs, they are prepared for an entry level position in their field after completing these courses.”

The Little Hoover commission, a non-partisan legislative agency, named San Diego Continuing Education as a top model program for efficiency and effectiveness in California. The Commission produced an in-depth, well-documented report, “Serving Students, Serving California:  Updating the California Community Colleges to Meet Evolving Demands.” The report was presented to the California governor and legislature and includes several recommendations that suggest how programs could and should function in today’s world.

San Diego’s Continuing Education is the largest adult educational institute of its kind in the nation and has been invited to join 45 academic institutions in the Global Corporate College Network. The Global Corporate College was founded by leaders of entrepreneurial colleges and universities and leverages the best learning industry practices with the resources of accredited academic institutions.  The organization is committed to helping employers realize the full potential of their workforce by providing training opportunities for corporations and organizations throughout the U. S. and Europe and currently services 17 industry sectors. In San Diego, this type contract education is provided through the Employee Training Institute, which offers online training, classroom training, and on-the-job-site training for a fee. Hundreds of customized training options are available to San Diego businesses. Contact the Director of ETI at 619-388-1282 to learn more.

Since I am aware of the shortage of skilled workers in the manufacturing sector, I was particularly interested in the type of career technical training available to address this need. My tour of the Educational Cultural Complex campus included the pipe fitting and welding training department. I was amazed at the number of Miller Electric welding stations they had to teach students in both MIG and TIG welding techniques. They even had one of the newer Lincoln Electric welding simulators that I got to try out at the FABTECH show in Las Vegas in 2012. Because of budget cuts for staff, there is currently only one daytime welding class of about 25 students and one evening class this fall.

After certification, entry-level pipe fitters can earn $17/hour and welders can earn $19/hour, which is a very good entry-level wage in San Diego. Journeymen welders can make double this wage. These are no easy programs:  both require 1,200 hours of training, completed in 48 to 52 weeks. The Continuing Education program provides Career Development Services (CDS) that helps students with resume preparation, interview tips, and specific information about companies that are looking for certain skills.  Regular job fairs are hosted at various campuses. Students also have the opportunity to meet with a career counselor who can help with identifying and setting goals that will keep students on the right track toward employment.

Most of the career technical training requiring specific equipment is only available at the Educational Cultural Complex, but electronic technician training is only provided at the mid-city campus. Training for machinists is only available at the San Diego City College campus as a for-credit college class.

Even after losing more than a half million manufacturing jobs since 2008, “California is by far the number one state for manufacturing jobs, firms and output – accounting for 11.7 percent of the total output, and employing 9 percent of the workforce. CA manufacturing generates $229.9 billion, more than any other state.”

Manufacturing’s tarnished image has caused Gen X and Millennials to not even think of manufacturing as a career. As Sr. Editor, Patricia Panchak of Industry Week, wrote in her November 7th article, “Manufacturer’s Agenda: Toward a New Skilled Workforce Shortage Solution,”, “too many people viewed manufacturing jobs as low-paying, “dumb, dirty, dangerous and disappearing.”

This is certainly not true in San Diego and other parts of California. The majority of manufacturing plants in California are clean and high-tech compared to the heavy industry of the mid-west and so-called “Rust Belt.” Manufacturing jobs provide the opportunity to make higher wages according to many past Industry Week articles that have highlighted“statistics showing that manufacturing jobs on average pay higher salaries than jobs in other sectors.”

If you are in a low-paying or dead-end job, you may want to consider getting the technical training you need to obtain a higher paying job in manufacturing through your local community college or continuing education program.

If you are a company owner or member of the management team of a manufacturing company, you may want to contact your local community college or continuing education center to provide job offers to graduates of their certification programs or get your existing employees trained in new skills.

If you don’t live in California, then try a search using “career technical training” in your state to see what you can find. It may change your life or help you find the skilled workers your company needs.





What is a Secret to the Success of Indiana Manufacturers?

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

Many companies in Northern Indiana were hit hard by the recession and the dramatic downturn in the auto industry, but some manufacturers were able to weather the storm, recover rapidly, and resume good growth well before the rest of the country. Manufacturing in the U.S. is undergoing a renaissance, and Indiana ranks as the top state where manufacturing contributes the most to the nation’s total economic output. For example, Northeast Indiana’s medical device companies control 34 percent of the worldwide orthopedic market, translating into $12 billion in revenues. They are market share leaders in the $37 billion orthopedic and biologics industry, and combined together, they control 60 percent of the worldwide hip replacement market and 64 percent of the worldwide knee replacement market. Three companies shared their stories with me in recent interviews.

Micropulse Incorporated

I interviewed Brian Emerick, CEO, who founded Micropulse in 1988 and is the sole owner of the company. The company now manufactures from a state-of-the-art 100,000 square foot facility with over 200 employees next to the farmhouse where it was originally started.

Micropulse prototypes and manufactures the most demanding instruments and implants in the medical device industry. They don’t have their own product line and make custom parts for OEMs. They are a contract manufacturer selling to the orthopedic industry. About 50% of their business is spine related, and the rest is a mix of hip, knee, and other joint implants.

Their employees have been trained in “Lean manufacturing” principles and tools using the local Manufacturing Extension Program and courses at the local community colleges. They have several Black Belts now on staff, and they do regular Kaizen events and utilize Six Sigma practices and tools. Their quality system is certified to ISO 13485.

Brian said, “We started being impacted by competition from offshore, especially China about 10 years ago, but business is coming back. Some of our bigger customers like Johnson & Johnson and Zimmer set up plants in China. We do more work with smaller companies that don’t have their own plants in China because the quality requirements for implants are too stringent to use Chinese contract manufacturers.”

They were flat in 2009 during the recession, but the orthopedic industry as a whole was down about 25%. They have great customers and started growing again in 2010. Their growth since has been about 10% per year. They recovered by not buying much and cutting expenses.

They spend about $2 million per year buying new equipment and updating software systems. They are considering adding another 60,000 sq. ft. within the next 18 months.

Brian said, “The secret to our success is the employees that make up our team. We have a solid workforce with very low turnover and have quality customers.”

C&A Tool

Richard Conrow founded C&A Tool in 1969 in a garage in Churubusco, Indiana as a tool and die operation with 10 employees. C&A Tool is a poster child for the manufacturing revival in the U.S. As a privately held company, C&A Tool has continued to add jobs, machinery and square footage each year. Having sustained 44 years of economic ups and downs, the company has grown to employ more than 530 people with 750,000 square feet of manufacturing space.

I interviewed Rob Marr, V. P., who said, “Our services are contract machining and high precision grinding. We don’t have our own products, but do a lot of prototype and development for our customers.” They bought Direct Laser Sintering equipment to be able to do Additive Manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, which utilizes 3D CAD data to produce a part. In the case of C&A Tool, the parts are metal, not plastic, made by Direct Laser Sintering. This technology produces metal prototypes and production parts in a matter of hours.

Their main markets are:  orthopedics for instruments and implants, automotive, electric motors, fuel systems, and aerospace. The company currently has four facilities and has invested in new capabilities, adding new equipment to support jet engine, power generation and industrial markets. This market mix means that they are ISO 9001:2008 certified, as well as TS949, AS 9100, and ISO 13485 certified.

Training the next generation of manufacturers is critical for the future. Rob is passionate about educating the manufacturing workforce, the general public, and his local community that manufacturing is not the dark and dingy days of our forefathers. For the past 36 years, C&A Tool has partnered with the local high schools to offer part time jobs to more than 60 students during the school day that allow them to have on the job training and transition from the classroom to the workplace more seamlessly. In addition to training high school students, the company brings in math teachers to show them the real world of manufacturing.

They have been impacted by competition from offshore, especially China, but have been getting business back for a couple of years. They compete more with Europe than China because of their high precision machining and grinding.

They were impacted by the recession, particularly their automotive business. During part of 2009, their business was down by 40%. New development was down, but they didn’t lay off any one and even bought another facility in 2009. They did not do anything special to recover, just continued their business culture.

They focus on investing heavily in capital equipment and software every year, even during the recession. They buy new equipment as their motto is “to maintain an excess capacity of square footage and equipment, even if it doesn’t have the customer base to support the investment at the moment to be able to take advantage of new opportunities.”

Rob said, “The secret to our success is that our founder laid a foundation for the company with the right people and equipment. We have evolved over the years. It really comes down to the people and allowing them to succeed and learn from their mistakes. We do what’s right by investing in people and equipment so our employees can take pride in their work and we elevate the industry.”

Forest River Inc.

Forest River was founded in 1996 by Peter Liegl. He foresaw an RV company dedicated to helping people experience the joy of the outdoors by building better recreational vehicles. After purchasing certain assets of Cobra Industries, the company started manufacturing pop-up tent campers, travel trailers fifth wheels and park models.

Continually growing, Forest River now operates multiple manufacturing facilities throughout the Midwest and West coast producing motorized Class A, B and C vehicles, travel trailers, fifth wheels, pop-up tent campers, park model trailers, destination trailers, cargo trailers, commercial vehicles, buses, pontoons, restroom trailers and mobile offices.

They were acquired in 2005 by Berkshire Hathaway, but Mr. Liegl has remained the CEO. Forest River shares 80-81% of the industry with two other companies, leading with a 35% market share.

Doug Baeddert, GM of 14 operating units, said “We don’t sell direct to the public; we sell through dealers focused on their main markets of recreation, commercial businesses for vehicles, pontoons, and mobile offices, and municipalities for buses and restroom trailers.”

Their plants are non-union, and 85% of all production occurs in Indiana. The industry is an assembly-based industry not a vertical industry. They rely on their suppliers and are basically an “assembler” of parts, components, and assemblies that are manufactured by their vendors. For example, many of their wood assemblies are made by small Amish wood shops that are located in Northern Indiana.

They have not been impacted by offshore competition for their products, but over the last 15 years, the imported content of their vehicles has grown. It reached a peak a couple of years ago and is leveling off now.

Doug said, “In 2008-2009, there was a 33-34% reduction of manufacturing of RVs industry-wide. The consolidation of companies has been healthy and good for the financial stability of our industry. There has also been a consolidation of dealers so there are about one-third fewer dealers than prior to the recession.”

During the recession, they didn’t cut any salaried or sales personnel because they weren’t top heavy. They downsized some of the production workforce, but not significantly. They haven’t noticed any effect from sequestration nationwide, and their growth is up 40% this year.

They don’t have a formal budget for investing, but they are continually doing new product design and improving their existing products. Each division is autonomous in product development and is very entrepreneurial, innovative, creative, and visionary in their design work for new products. They can make minor changes from concept to prototype in as little as three days. However, a major technology change, particularly vehicles, can take up to a year.

Doug said, “The secret to our success is the right leadership of our founder, Pete, our people, our products, and our processes. We give enough rope to our people to succeed or fail and have a very low turnover.”

In answer to my question about their secret to success, they all said their core competency as a company is the talent and expertise of their people from management on down the line, not just their equipment or facilities. My own experience in business and as a writer has convinced me that it is the team of people that make up a company that is the key to its success or failure. These stories are examples of achieving the American dream of being a successful entrepreneur.