Archive for September, 2014

North Carolina College Recognizes STEM is Critical to Workforce Development

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Developing the maximum potential of persons by means of expanding knowledge and aptitude is the objective of the foundational structure of becoming a “Lean company.” It is impossible for companies to achieve this objective without a comprehensive program of workforce development (referred to as Talent Development in the language of “Lean.”)

In a recent interview, Chris Paynter, Dean of STEM at Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) told me that part of the plan for achieving the College’s vision “to be the national leader in workforce development” was the reorganization of the college divisions of Science, Information Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics under one Dean to support the growth of these four interrelated fields as a unit.

But CPCC is not alone in recognizing the combined need for these fields in the modern, high-tech workforce. “The Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM), comprised of 13 partner agencies—including all of the mission science agencies and the Department of Education—will facilitate a cohesive national strategy, with new and repurposed funds, to reorganize STEM education programs and increase the impact of federal investments in five areas: P-12 STEM instruction; increasing and sustaining public and youth engagement with STEM; improving the STEM experience of undergraduate students; better serving groups historically underrepresented in STEM fields; and designing graduate education for tomorrow’s STEM workforce.

Dean Paynter said that CPCC just celebrated their 50th anniversary and now has six campuses located throughout Mecklenburg County. CPCC’s mission is to be “an innovative and comprehensive college that advances the life-long educational development of students consistent with their needs, interests, and abilities while strengthening the economic, social, and cultural life of its diverse community.”

He said, “We believe that there is shared responsibility between employers, schools, and families in developing an educational infrastructure that provides a skilled STEM workforce for the greater Charlotte region.”

He explained that the College has created career pathways that have multiple entry points, such as High School graduates, military veterans, incumbent workers, and displaced workers to provide access to structured training paths for the development of highly sought after STEM career skills.

He added, “More and more employers are seeking graduates from associate degree programs because of the practical, applied, and competency-based nature of those programs. These graduates are able to quickly apply the real world job skills they leaned at school and are very productive when hired.”

CPCC is a “Learning College,” which means it places learning first and provides educational experiences for learners any way, anywhere, anytime. In support of this initiative, four core competencies have been identified as critical to the success of every CPCC graduate. The competencies are:

  • Communication: the ability to read, write, speak, listen, and use nonverbal skills effectively with different audiences.
  • Critical Thinking: the ability to think using analysis, synthesis, evaluation, problem solving, judgment, and the creative process.
  • Personal Growth and Responsibility: the ability to understand and manage self, to function effectively in social and professional environments and to make reasoned judgments based on an understanding of the diversity of the world community.
  • Information Technology and Quantitative Literacy the ability to locate, understand, evaluate, and synthesize, information and data in a technological and data driven society.

Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) recently joined 130 other community colleges from around the country as a member of the Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count! Initiative designed to identify new strategies to improve student success, close achievement gaps, and increase retention and completion rates.

Workforce Training

Dean Paynter said that CPCC provides up-to-date technical skills to the Charlotte region’s workforce and employers. The CPCC Engineering Technologies Certification Center was created to assist this effort by providing proctored credentialing exams for nationally recognized third-party industry credentials, such as the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council, National Institute of Metalworking Skills, North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute, Siemens Mechatronic Systems Certification Program.

He added that advisors and instructors for CPCC’s Corporate Learning Center work with companies to assess their needs and recommend a customized solution, utilizing the comprehensive training approach offered by the IST Lab. Training can be scheduled at a time/date that is convenient for the client.

Companies that have benefited from this program include: Coca Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated, Sun Chemical, Timken, and Solectron.

Apprenticeship Programs

Dean Paynter said that CPCC provides apprenticeship programs in partnership with local companies:

Apprenticeship Charlotte – Programs vary, but usually consist of an employer and student agreement and approval by an appropriate entity. In North Carolina, formal or registered apprenticeships are created in agreement with the N.C. Department of Labor (NCDOL).

Apprenticeship 2000 – The Apprenticeship 2000 program is a 4-year technical training partnership in the Charlotte, NC region designed to develop people for such a workforce. Juniors and seniors from local high schools are recruited: Some of the advantages include:

  • AAS degree in Mechatronics Engineering Technology
  • Apprenticeship Certification
  • Earn a min. of $34,000/year at completion
  • Benefits (Medical/Dental, Paid Holidays)
  • Guaranteed Job after Graduation

CPCC works closely with the approximate 200 German companies with facilities in the Charlotte region, including BMW and Siemens. These companies employ about 15,000 people.

Dean Paynter said that earlier this month, CPCC and Festo Didactic SE, headquartered in Denkendorf, Germany, signed a letter of intent to establish a North American training center, to be located on CPCC’s Central Campus. The press release stated:

“The joint venture, to be called the “Festo-CPCC Learning Center of Excellence,” will be developed in stages, with the first stage operational by early 2015. The center will advocate the growth and development of advanced manufacturing in the United States, while giving CPCC students and incumbent workers a one-of-kind opportunity to become highly skilled operators of the latest high-tech manufacturing equipment.

Festo Didactic is a world-leading equipment and solution provider for industrial education. Festo Didactic designs and implements learning laboratories, educational equipment, and programs that train workers to perform in highly dynamic and complex industrial environments. The goal of Festo Didactic is to maximize learning success in educational institutions and industrial companies around the globe.

Festo AG, the parent company of Festo Didactic, is a global supplier of solutions in pneumatic and electrical automation technology to 300,000 customers of factory and process automation in more than 200 industries and 176 countries around the world.

‘We intend for our new joint venture to become the ‘gold standard’ for technical education and training in the United States and North America,” said Dr. Daniel Boese, managing director of Festo Didactic. “Through this large-scale initiative, we will advocate and promote advanced manufacturing as a viable, attractive and lifelong career option for students and new and incumbent workers in the U.S.’

‘One goal of this joint venture is to establish a showcase for advanced manufacturing and to create a broad-based sense of excitement and passion for the advanced manufacturing sector in the United States,’ said Dr. Tony Zeiss, CPCC president.

‘We have big ambitions for this center. We’ll endeavor to provide comprehensive workforce development and training programs and solutions to address, at regional and national levels, the ongoing mid-skills training gap that hinders U.S. advanced manufacturing,,,’ Zeiss said.”

This agreement follows an initiative the college undertook with German industry when it signed a cooperative education agreement with IHK Karlsruhe, a German regional chamber of industry and commerce in April 2012. CPCC became the first U.S. community college to offer IHK-certified job-training programs.

Engineering Summer Camps

In an effort to attract youth to manufacturing and other STEM careers, Dean Paynter said that the college also offers a one-week summer camp where students can learn hands on skills and apply their creativity. Math, science and engineering converge in camp activities and projects for a deeper understanding of how to apply these in real life. Using “contextual learning” high-school aged students build, analyze, and test either their own Bio-Mechanical Hand or own 3D Printer while learning fundamentals of electrical, mechanical, and computer engineering. At the end of the camp, the student is able to keep either the Bio-Mechanical Hand or 3D printer and have the knowledge and skills to fix it.

Workforce development is another way to address the skills gap in the manufacturing industry, as well as other science, math, and engineering career paths. In addition to focusing on training existing employees, companies need to be willing to hire and train older, unemployed workers that still have plenty of real-world know-how and technical expertise to off their employer. Many “Baby Boomers” would gladly delay their retirement if they had the opportunity to learn new skills to make their jobs more interesting and challenging.

How to Combat the Manufacturing Skills Gap

Monday, September 1st, 2014

“Creating a robust pipeline of workers to address the needs of U.S. manufacturers has become a national priority” according to a recently released report by ToolingU, a division of SME (formerly the Society of Manufacturing Engineers) titled, “Using Competency Models to Drive Competitiveness and Combat the Manufacturing Skills Gap.” The report discusses the results of a survey on the skills gap and current training, defines competency vs. competency models, explains different models, and explores best practices.

American’s manufacturers are increasingly challenged to find the skilled workers they need to fill good jobs. As more and more “Baby Boomers” retire, we need to address this issue if we want to keep the manufacturing engine going and growing to keep our economy strong.

Currently, 9 out of 10 manufacturers are having difficulty finding skilled workers and they say this is directly hurting the bottom line, according to a 2013 SME and Brandon Hall survey. In fact, the survey revealed:

  • 64% of manufacturers say productivity losses are a result of a skills gap.
  • 41% cited quality losses
  • 56% report the gap in skilled labor has impacted their company’s ability to grow
  • 78% cited a lack of qualified candidates as one of the top two factors that impacted
  • their ability to hire a skilled workforce
  • 78% cited a lack of qualified candidates as one of the top two factors that impacted
  • their ability to hire a skilled workforce

There are four main reasons for the skills gap:

  • Limited pipeline – Fewer people are pursuing Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education and fewer youth are choosing manufacturing as a career.
  • Retiring workforce – Baby Boomers are retiring and about 10,000 per day will turn 65 for the next 19 years.
  • Changing pace of technology – Technical innovation is moving so quickly that it can be a challenge for workers who are unable to keep pace and are left behind.
  • Reshoring – Returning manufacturing back to the U.S. creates a bigger demand for jobs.

In January 2014, President Barrack Obama signed a memorandum to initiate a review of all the federal training programs to “develop a specific action plan…to make the workforce and training system more job-driven, integrated, and effective.”

Additionally, recent government investments in the Manufacturing Innovation Centers, as well as a new $450 million round of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) Grants Program demonstrates the commitment to solving these workplace issues.

The SME survey asked if the organization had a company-wide plan in place to address its skills gaps. The responses were:

  • 54% “No, we do not have a company-wide plan in place for filling our skills gaps among skilled workers in critical roles at this time.
  • 26% Yes, we have a company-wide plan for filling our skills gaps among skilled workers in critical roles through the next 12 months.
  • 14% Yes, we have a company-wide plan filling our skills gaps among skilled workers in critical roles through the next 5 years

The survey asked if the company’s skilled workforce training programs are built on specified competencies defined in job roles ? 71% said yes, 23% said No, and 6% said they don’t know.

In answer to the question about the best description of your company’s current approach to defining “skilled worker” roles, the responses were:

  • 40% We have written job roles, competencies, experiences, and education.
  • 21% We have general written job roles only.
  • 18% We have defined workforce roles in terms of written job roles, competencies (skills and behaviors), experiences, education, cognitive abilities, motivation factors and cultural fit.
  • 10% We have competency based written job roles only.
  • 9% We have not defined our “skilled worker” roles.
  • 1% Don’t know.

In the last 20 years, the training process has become much more sophisticated. Training is no longer one size fits all. Organizations are looking at employees individually and building customized training programs specifically to fit their strengths and weaknesses.

Professional and technical certifications provide objective confirmation and assurance of skill achievement in various areas of technical expertise. Certification validates a level of expertise and provides employees with advancement opportunities that motivate them to continue learning.

Certification organizations, such as the National Institute of Metalworking Skills (NIMS), Manufacturing Skills Standards Council (MSSC), SME, and American Welding Society (AWS), require manufacturers to show that employees have applied and retained the knowledge and skills they received through training.

The report contrasts “competency” with a “Competency Model.” Competency is defined as the capability to apply a set of related knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA) to successfully perform functions or tasks in a defined work setting. They serve as the basis for skill standards that specify the KSAs needed for success and measurement criteria for assessing competency attainment. A competency framework is used to design a plan specific to a particular manufacturing environment or organization or when there are no manufacturing certifications tied to desired job roles.

A competency model is defined as a collection of competencies that together define successful performance in a particular work setting. Competency models are the foundation for functions such as recruitment and hiring, training and development, and performance management. Competency models can be developed for specific jobs, job groups, organizations, occupations, or industries.

There are two main industry competency models for manufacturing in the marketplace:

Department of Labor (DOL) Advanced Manufacturing Competency Model – Created by the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) and other industry organizations, the Advanced Manufacturing Competency Model is a broad platform outlining critical work functions and topical areas. It includes crosscutting competencies applicable to various industry sectors.

Tooling U-SME Competency Framework or Manufacturing Excellence – Created by a cross-section of manufacturing experts and introduced in 2014, the tool features a comprehensive series of competency models in nine manufacturing functional areas and is made up of more than 60 job role competency models, each outlining knowledge and skill objectives for job roles in production, technician, lead technician/technologist and engineer levels. Designed to complement other competency models in the marketplace, the Competency Framework can be used “as is” or customized to individual work practices at a facility. The framework is mapped directly to Tooling U-SME’s extensive training resources and a specially designed system allows for seamless validation and record keeping.

Implementing an ISO quality management system to obtain certification or becoming a Lean enterprise requires a talent development program, which means training. Companies are finding that competency models provide the rigor needed to meet the ISO and Lean quality objectives, guidelines, and reporting requirements.

Competency models allow companies to combat the increasing talent shortage and achieve stronger performance from their workforce while providing clear development pathways and career growth opportunities for their employees.

Advantages for companies:

  • Ensures enterprise-wide consistency making the workforce more flexible and dynamic.
  • Streamlines the training process and cuts costs by eliminating unnecessary/redundant training to focus on true needs.
  • Helps managers easily evaluate worker performance levels defined using specific behavioral indicators, which reduces subjective assessment and increases assessment accuracy.

Advantages for employees:

  • Enhances employee satisfaction based on the rationality of the system.
  • Defines and explains to each worker what they need to do to improve their skills.

The first step to get started is for human resources to work with production and operations managers to develop job descriptions that accurately define the qualifications needed by workers, including both knowledge and skills. This analysis provides the foundation for a program that meets a company’s objectives related to budget, consistency, measurability and results.

Good training requires both knowledge and skills that may not come from informal knowledge transfer or tribal learning. It requires understanding the concepts of what and why a job is done a certain way, and then requires on-the-job training to validate that the worker can fulfill the needs of that job.

The key is commitment from top management down to individual employees. It is important to communicate to all employees that the focus is on knowledge and skill requirements of the job and align training designed to help each person perform his or her job more efficiently, while providing new growth opportunities. An effective training program will include a validation process that not only tests a new skill but provides employees with the opportunity to gain new skills, apply them on the job, and then have their new skill sets validated through assessments, testing, and certifications.

A well-designed competency model can become the foundation for performance management, talent acquisition and leadership development for manufacturing companies. To combat the current and future talent gap and build a high performance team, it is critical for companies to have a system in place to codify knowledge and skills required for specific job roles aligned with the appropriate training.