Posts Tagged ‘Manufacturing jobs’

North Carolina Prepares for the Future through Training and Redevelopment

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

At the TEDx San Diego event on Saturday, October 14th, Dr. Mary Walshok, Associate Vice Chancellor for Public Programs and Dean of Extension at the University of California, San Diego, gave a short talk in which she said we need to add HEART to STEM.  She coined the acronym HEART meaning Hands-on, Engaged, Applied, Relevant Training whereas STEM means Science, Technology, Engineering & Math.

She said too many educators don’t realize the need for the hands-on workers, such as machinists, welders, plumbers, electricians, etc. Too many parents are focused on their children getting a college education, which is why we have millions of unfilled jobs requiring hands-on training. She recommended combining HEART and STEM to be more competitive as a country in the global economy.

Fortunately, there are more and more cities, regions, and states that have awakened to this problem and are doing something about it.  Charleston, South Carolina and the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina are among the problem-solving regions.

After visiting the Guilford Technical Community College aviation training center that I wrote about in my last article, my hosts took me to visit one of the companies involved in the apprenticeship program, Machine Specialties Inc., where we met with Rob and Tammy Simmons, President and Executive Vice President of the company.

Rob said, “The company was founded by Carlos Black in 1969 after he moved to the U.S. from Argentina where he had apprenticed as a machinist. I started in 1980, and we were primarily a small machine shop supporting the textile industry. In 1990, we expanded into screw machine parts. We got our first government contract in 1995. I became part owner in 1998, and we moved into a new building in 2003. We expanded into doing large parts like aircraft landing gear and added in-house anodizing and chem film. We bought this building in 2009 with all of office equipment. We added a large laser cutting machine in 2009, and now have two lasers. Then, we bought two large multi axis WFL machines to be able to machine Titanium. We are open 24/7, but our weekend shift works three days. We are AS9100 Certified for aerospace, ISO 9001 for commercial, and ISO 13485 for medical parts.

I bought the company in 2005, and today, we are a leading contract machining and metal finishing specialist that designs and manufactures parts for many different industries including the aerospace, military, and medical industry. We plan to grow to be a $50 million-dollar company by 2020.”

He added, “We realized that we had a problem because about 15% of our employees will be old enough to retire within the next five years. So, we need to train new workers to take their place.”

Tammy said, “We were one of the first six companies to work with Guilford County Schools in starting a new apprenticeship program in the fall of 2016 for those interested in the advanced manufacturing field. Students will undergo a three to four-year program where they can receive an associate’s degree in Manufacturing Technology, a journeymen certificate as a machinist or welder, have their school paid for, and then end up with a manufacturing job.

About 50 students, juniors and seniors, applied for the program, and 27 students were selected to start the program initially.  This year we are up to 20 companies participating in the apprenticeship program.  During the summer, the students took classes for six weeks and then worked full-time for six weeks.

The students who are seniors when they start the program, spend half the day at school and then the other half working at our company. The students who applied as seniors and then graduate, go to school one day a week at GTCC to pursue their associate’s degree in manufacturing technology and then spend four days working.  GAP pays students hourly wage while on the job and when they sit in class at community college. I think it’s important to note that apprentices are paid while they are in class earning their degree because I don’t know of any other programs that do this. We also pay the students for their tuition and books while at GTCC.”

Afterward, Vice President Bob Schumacher gave us a tour of the plant, where we met three of their apprentices, two young men and one young woman.  One of the young men had graduated from high school before starting the program in the summer, and two are seniors this year. The young woman knew she wanted to be a welder when she started the program because her family have been employed in the manufacturing industry.

Then, we drove to Browns Summit, near Greensboro, to visit ABCO Automation, where we met with Brad Kemmerer, President   and CEO, and Jack Walsh, EVP Sales and Marketing.  Mr. Kemmerer said, “We build custom automation equipment and are a FANUC and KUKA robot integrator. Our company was started in 1977 by Graham Ricks, but we converted to an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) in 1998. We started working with Coca Cola in the beginning to build electrical control systems and custom packaging equipment.  We designed the system that McDonalds uses to pump the syrup into their restaurants.

He explained, “In the late 1980s, we began to diversify our customer base by building custom equipment for a broader range of manufacturers. We began to go beyond packaging projects into manufacturing assembly, material handling, and inspection equipment. Now, our customer base is very diversified — all of the typical industries represented in North Carolina — Aerospace, Automotive, Chemical, Food & Beverage, Electronics, Healthcare, Pharmaceutical, Tobacco. Most of our customers have 25-30 plants around the world, and the average price of a system is $1 million.”

He added, “We have 150 employees, but added 23 employees in the last six months and 40 in the last 18 months.  We need to build a supply of future workers if we want to continue to grow. We have supported the robotics competition, For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology (FIRST). For two weekends in January, we host more than 60 students from six local high school robotics teams to help them kick-start their FIRST Robotics Competition. After learning the theme of the competition, each team has just six weeks to design, build, and ship the robot to the FIRST national competition. We provide guidance from our mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, and project managers to assist students, their mentors, and coaches.

When we heard about the Guilford Apprenticeship Partners (GAP) program, we hosted the meetings and helped with the high schools. We currently have four apprentice students learning the skills of an electrician, mechanic, fabricator, and machinist. Two are first year apprentices and two are second year apprentices. We believe this a win-win for all—we supplement our current manufacturing team, and the students gain paid on the job experience while earning a college education.”

By this time, it was late afternoon, so we headed back to Greensboro to enjoy dinner at Natty Green’s Kitchen + Market, which is a combination micro-brewery, farm-to-market restaurant, and store located in a redeveloped textile mill.  Natty Green’s is in one of the buildings of Revolution Mill, a 45-acre historic textile campus that brings apartments, restaurants, events, history, and innovation together as the “Place of Choice to Live, Work and Create in Greensboro.”

Nick Piornack, Business Development Manager, gave us a tour of two of the former textile mill buildings — one that has been re-purposed for offices and studio space, and the other as an apartment building.  Between two of the apartment building is an outside event space where one of the finalists of The Voice was performing.  There is one classic building yet to be redeveloped on the property.

From the website, I learned that Revolution Mill is “a historic textile mill campus encompassing the Revolution Mill and Olympic Mill sites, with adjacent land connected by North Buffalo Creek. Located just north of downtown Greensboro, Revolution began operations as the South’s first large flannel mill in 1899 and for decades anchored a thriving community of workers and craftspeople. The facility included over 640,000 feet of working space before the textile industry decline led to its closure in 1982. For the next few decades, limited sections of Revolution were renovated into office space, while other parts of the property fell into disuse and disrepair. In 2012 Self-Help assumed ownership of Revolution Mill and is completing the property’s transformation into a mixed-use development…Self-Help is a development credit union and lender headquartered in Durham, NC.”

After the tour, we met with co-founder, Kayne Fisher, of Natty Green’s Kitchen + Market, who gave us a behind the scene tour of the restaurant. Mr. Fisher told us that he had dreamed of owning his own chop house and neighborhood market since childhood. So, when the opportunity to open a restaurant in the Carpenter’s Shop at Revolution Mill came around, his brain-child came to life. The market included a butcher’s counter where you could buy cuts of meat the restaurant used in its menu. As a non-beer drinker, I actually enjoyed tasting a beer that had chocolate in it. Besides the usual steak, chicken, hamburgers, and salads, the menu offered pork chops, lamb chops, and braised brisket, the latter being my choice. All of our diners were delicious.

At the end of a very fully day, it felt good to have seen the results of the redevelopment of an important industrial region with new industries, the re-purposing of old textile plants, and the creation of an apprenticeship program to foster the development of the next generation of manufacturing workers.

From Boats to Tires: Global Manufacturing is Thriving in Charleston, South Carolina

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

During day two of my visit to the Charleston, South Carolina metro area, we visited Scout Boats in Summerville, S.C., which as a boat builder, is a more traditional type manufacturer you expect to find in a deep-water port community.  A family-owned business, Scout builds luxury center console sort fishing and bay boats.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Steve Potts, who founded the company in 1989. Mr. Potts said, “I have been in the boat business since I was 14 years old, and my wife and I made a decision to start making 14-15 ft. fishing boats in a garage we rented after planning for years and saving $50,000.

We got off to a good start, and then Hurricane Hugo hit and leveled our building.  We salvaged what we could and started over. The next winter, we got 11 inches of snow and the roof partially collapsed while we were developing a 17-ft. sized boat. This boat put us on the map, and we sold this model for years. We displayed this boat in the local boat show and came out of the show with a list of 31 dealers that we developed into a dealer network.  We sell exclusively through dealers.

In 1990, I prepared my plan for 1991 and predicted that we would do $750,000 in sales, and we did.  The only year we lost money was 2009. In 1992, we moved down the road to a 12,000-sq. ft. custom-built building.  However, we couldn’t expand, so in in 1995, we bought 16 acres of land and built Plant A. We added another building (plant B) and then added Plant C. Plant A build boats in size from 17-25 ft. Plant B builds boats 27-35 ft. in size, and Plant C builds 38-42 ft. models. built. Plant D will be a 100,000-sq. ft. building to build boats up to 53 ft. in size. We also have a small plant for R & D. We are a debt-free company, so we build when we have the cash.

Today, we have 28-30 models, and our annual sales will be $100 million this year.  For many years, we focused on 25-30 ft. boats, but we are expanding to build up 53 ft. sized boats.  We export 17-18% of our boats. Canada and Mexico are our two top markets, but from 2003-2008, our largest dealer was in Athens, Greece.

We have 380 employees now, and our five-year plan is to grow to 680 employees by 2020. We strive to be as diverse as we can be.  We sell yacht tenders for the large luxury yachts that are towed behind the large yachts. Our three adult children are part of our business and are very involved. Consequently, we have had an ongoing succession plan in place for more than ten years. I want Scout Boats to be a dynasty for years and years to come.”

Mr. Potts is the epitome of the exemplary American entrepreneurial spirit that once made our country the dominant manufacturing center of the world. To think that his company survived three recessions in his 28 years in business without going into debt is extraordinary.

Our next meeting was with Mark Fetten, president and CEO of Cooper River Partners, LLC that manages the Charleston International Manufacturing Center (CIMC) at Bushy Park in Goose Creek, S.C.  CIMC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Pacolet Milliken Enterprises. CIMC is a 1,750-acre industrial complex in a heavy industrial zone, as well being a Foreign Trade Zone.  It has deep-water access to the Atlantic Ocean via the Cooper River with barge slip access and rail access via a rail spur. CIMC is located less than 10 minutes from two major highways in the region (I-26 and I-526) for trucking products.

In addition to the existing tenants, it has 300 acres of developable land.  The site is currently home to the following manufacturers:

AGFA Corporation – medical x-ray and technical imaging regional distribution center

Evonik – manufacturer of silica for tire production (under construction)

Kemira Chemicals – paper dyes, specialty chemicals for ink jet applications

Lanxess Rubber Chemicals – vulcanization for tires and peptizers used in rubber manufacturing

Nexans – high voltage underground and submarine cables

Philips Industrial Services – industrial and marine painting, fireproofing, hydroblasting, water jetting, epoxy floor systems, and industrial vacuuming

Sun Chemicals – organic pigments for paints, plastics, and cosmetics

Symrise – flavors and fragrances, menthol, sunscreens, and aroma esters (expansion project under construction)

Mr. Fetten discussed the biggest advantages CIMC offers are the utility services and other support functions that allow tenants to focus on their core business. “CIMC enables companies to get their products to the market faster with the existing infrastructure within CIMC, while minimizing CAPEX and risk,” he said.

Located only 1.5 miles from a major power station, CIMC has a one MW solar farm on the property that feeds back into the power grid. A second solar farm is in the final stages of planning. A wide variety of utility services are provided, including electrical, steam, compressed air, nitrogen, refrigeration, natural gas, and waste water treatment. Other services include on-site security, environmental management, and emergency responders.

CIMC was originally built up by Bayer Corporation over a period of 30 years, but in 1999, Bayer started divesting companies.  In 2009, Bayer sold the park to a privately held company of which Marc Fetten was a partner with two other gentlemen. Marc previously worked in M&A for Bayer, so he saw the opportunity.

The driving tour around CIMC showcased the advanced manufacturing legacy of the southeast. In addition to the $250 million in CAPEX I saw under construction, I got to see a gem of heavy industrial manufacturing.  The former General Dynamics and subsequent Jacobs Engineering plant was purchased by Cooper River Partners, LLC in the summer of 2016. This 94-acre facility located adjacent to CIMC, appropriately named CIMC North produced some amazing examples of advanced manufacturing, the nose cones to U.S. Navy Trident Class Submarines and later modular assembly and pipe fabrication.

CIMC North consists of 400,000 square feet of manufacturing and warehouse space, 800,000 square feet of open-air assembly, an array of welding, assembly, blasting, painting and handling equipment, as well as a barge slip and rail access.  Also of note, are the ten bridge cranes, eight of which are rated for a 40-ton load. The two 20-ton bridge cranes have infrastructure in place to support transloading to and from railcars. According to Marc, “CIMC North expands our footprint and facilitates bringing prime industrial, warehouse and distribution space to the market immediately, which is in high demand in the Charleston region. Providing a dock, rail access, large capacity cranes and a 200-ton shuttle lift is a big cost saver for companies looking to minimize CAPEX. This model aligns perfectly with our sustainable approach of minimizing environmental impacts.”

Afterward, we met with Robert Brown, Communications Manager, and Arthur Dube, Business Director, Precipitated Silica & Rubber Silanes. of Evonik Corporation, the U.S subsidiary of Evonik Industries AG, which is a German company that is one of the world’s leading specialty chemicals company. Evonik Industries produces chemicals for a variety of applications, including adhesives, cleaning products, construction materials and employs more than 33,500 people worldwide in more than one hundred countries.

Mr. Brown said, “Evonik Corporation was formed in 2007 in Chester, PA and has 33 plants in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. We have about 5,000 employees in the U. S.  The new plant we are building in this Center will open in June 2018 and produce precipitated silica to supply the tire industry. We will hire about 50 people for this plant. This business park offers the existing infrastructure we need, and there is a high level of skilled workers in the region for the higher paying jobs we offer. There are also workers at other plants that may transfer to this plant. David Elliott will be the Manufacturing Director for the new plant.”

He explained, “Evonik helps improve consumer and industrial products, and this plant will make tires run better, longer, and be stronger. He said that South Carolina has become home to several major tire manufacturers, such as Michelin, Bridgestone, and Continental, so they are following their customers. Another reason for locating in South Carolina is that the Sumter area mines produce 99% pure silica sand that is used in producing our precipitated silica.

Wanli Tire Corporation, a Chinese tire manufacturer, is investing $1 billion to build a new plant in Orangeburg County, South Carolina.  Also, Giti Tire, based in Singapore, announced a new plant last year that is being built just south of Rock Hill, SC.”

These two additional tire plants will further boost the state’s status as America’s tire-producing capital and create over 3,000 new jobs for the region when they are at full employment.

I was given a brief explanation of how they make precipitated silica by mixing silica sand with sodium carbonate and melting them. Then, they dissolve the mixture in water and precipitate it. The resulting white precipitate is filtered, washed and dried in a proprietary manufacturing process. Any further detail exceeds my technical expertise to explain. I was shown samples, which looked like pieces of fluffy popcorn that were a great deal lighter than you would expect from what started as a piece of silica. As an additive to tires, the precipitated silica produces fuel-efficient tires with wet grip properties, which can save up to eight percent in fuel consumption compared to conventional car tires.

This two-day visit to the Charleston region confirmed what Harry Moser of the Reshoring Initiative has been telling me about the increase of manufacturing jobs from Foreign Direct Investment. The favorable business climate, low state taxes, developable land, and skilled workforce has made South Carolina an attractive location for European companies from Germany, France, Belgium, the U.K, and Denmark to expand their U. S. manufacturing presence. If the U.S. would lower the national corporate tax rate, we would not only attract more Foreign Direct Investment, but would attract more American corporations to return manufacturing to America.

Charleston Manufacturers Focus on Training Current and Future Workers

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

After visiting the Charleston Port terminal and the Mercedes-Benz Vans Training Center, I had the pleasure of visiting several manufacturers during my two-day trip to the Charleston metro area. We first visited Ingevity in North Charleston, where I met Michael Wilson, President and CEO, Dan Gallagher, V.P., Investor Relations, Eric Walmet, Charleston Plant Manager, Jack Maurer, Director, Communications and Brand Management, and Laura Woodcock, Manager, P.R.

Ingevity is a leading global manufacturer of specialty chemicals and high-performance carbon materials that are used in a variety of demanding applications, including asphalt paving, oil exploration and production, agrochemicals, adhesives, lubricants, publication inks, and automotive components that reduce gasoline vapor emissions. The company creates high value-added products from renewable raw materials. The name is “coined” from the meaning of four words:  genuine, ingenuity, innovation, and longevity.

Ingevity was spun off in May 2016 from WestRock, which has a long history and many name changes going all the way back to 1846 when it was founded as Ellis, Chaffin & Company. Ingevity is headquartered in North Charleston, and has manufacturing plants in South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Virginia, as well as two in China. Ingevity has four sites in the Charleston region: its headquarters with 205 employees, the manufacturing plant with 214 employees, the Ashley Center with 109 employees, and the Innovation Center with six employees for a total of 534 employees.

Michael Wilson said, “We recently announced an agreement to acquire Georgia-Pacific’s pine chemicals business for $315 million. This will give us a stronger more competitive pine chemicals business. We also signed a supply agreement with Georgia-Pacific which in combination with our agreement with WestRock, will put 70 percent of our crude tall oil requirements under long-term contract. There is little customer overlap between the two companies. And, because we do business in 65 countries, we believe we can accelerate global growth for the Georgia-Pacific products.”

When I asked him his impression of the manufacturing sector in the region, he responded, “The manufacturing base is very diversified. The business climate of South Carolina is world class. The mindset of the government has been beneficial. It is a right to work state and has low taxes.”

Eric Walmet gave us a tour of the Charleston plant and Innovation Center, where we saw some of the activated carbon end-products made by Ingevity. The products include carbon honeycombs, granular carbons, and shaped carbons used to reduce automotive gasoline emissions. The activated carbon is made by combining sawdust and acid through a proprietary process.

I could see that the plant was laid out on the basis of a Lean value stream mapping event, and there were the obvious signs of the application of Lean tools and principles on the shop floor.

Our next stop was IFA North America in nearby Ladson.  We met with Mauro Amarante, President and CEO, and Ryan Loveless, Training Coordinator.  IFA North America LLC, formerly known as MTU Drive Shafts LLC., was founded in 2002 and operates as a subsidiary of the German company IFA – Holding GmbH.

IFA is one of the world’s leading and largest suppliers of drive shafts and side shafts for the automotive industry. In North America, IFA produces more than two million drive shafts a year and employs more than 600 people.

Mr. Amarante said he has been in the U.S. 11 years, having previously lived in Germany, Brazil, and Verona, Italy where he was born and raised. IFA is currently building a new plant in Berkeley County (still in the Charleston metro area) that will be 234,000 sq. ft., where they will be manufacturing constant velocity joints. They plan to consolidate all their operations and expand to about 400,000 sq. ft. by 2023.

Mr. Amarante said, “South Carolina is very business oriented, and former Governor Nikki Haley was very business focused.  We have all the business conditions we need here to secure our workforce.  We were one of the partners with VTL and three other companies to start an apprenticeship program three years ago to teach basic manufacturing skills like math, statistics, gauging, and machine operations.”

Mr. Loveless gave us the plant tour where we watched their production team turn purchased metal tubes into several designs of drive shafts.  Mr. Loveless said, “In addition to our full-time employees, we utilize about 120 temporary workers from a private agency.  These people work for us for about three-six months, and then we select the best workers to add to our full-time employees base. We would like to reduce the number of temporary employees. This is why we are investing time and money into the apprenticeship program to grow our future employment pool.”

Again, I saw the application of Lean tools and principles throughout the shop floor.  We even had to watch a safety video before we got to take the plant tour, and I was glad I was wearing my own Sears Die Hard steel-toed shoes instead of having to wear their guest shoes. Of course, as an automotive Tier 1 and Tier 2 supplier, they are ISO 9001:2008 and TS 16949 Certified.

Next, we visited the VTL Group, also in Ladson, where we met with Jeff Teague, General Manager, and Brian Glasshof, Account Manager.  Mr. Teague said, “The company was started in 1919 and changed its name to Valeo Transmission Ltd. in 1997. The management team, Bruno Joan, Chris Elliott, and a third man who has since been bought out and retired, did a leveraged buyout in 2001.  Chris started at the company as an apprentice when he was a young man.

He said, “I started in November 2011 when the company was in a turn-around mode after the recession. I came from the Greenville/Spartanburg area.  We are now running in a very tight workforce market because of the low unemployment.

We specialize in the design, development, prototyping, and manufacture of high precision components and sub-assemblies for automotive powertrain applications. We have expanded by winning several new contracts.  This plant makes variable geometry turbo parts for Cummins and make engine components for Borg Warner.  Everything we do is built around CAFÉ standards for emissions. VTL Group employs 275 globally, and has 48 employees in this Charleston plant.”

He went on to tell me about the genesis of the region’s youth apprenticeship program. “We were one of the six companies that showed up at a meeting in 2013 to discuss starting an apprenticeship program, which launched in 2014. We had a signing day event for 11 students. Now, this fall we’ll have 100 in the program.  Apprentices can start when they are 16 years old in high school. There are now nine industry sectors and 122 companies in the apprenticeship program. Industrial mechanics is the most requested training.”

Two of their new apprentices were brought in to meet me:  John Cody Geiger and Ty’Celia Young.  Both are high school students.  Ty’Celia said, “My high school engineering teacher encouraged me to apply when I was a junior.” Cody said, “I got an email from my high school principal and applied as a senior, so I graduated before starting at VTL.”

They go to high school in the morning, and then take industry-specific college courses a couple afternoons, and go to work the other afternoons during the school year. In the summer, they work full-time. When they complete the apprenticeship program, they will be Certified as Journeymen by the Department of Labor. They will also have two years of paid work experience on their resume. VTL has hired two past apprentices as full-time employees.

There are 26 schools in the apprenticeship program, public high schools, as well as charter schools and private schools. The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce pays for the tuition, tools and supplies for all of the students, so the students are getting their training free of charge. The Charleston Metro Chamber focuses on in-demand occupations. Besides advanced manufacturing, Charleston is also becoming an IT hub.

When I asked about the curriculum, I was told that the community colleges already had curriculum, which the companies helped modify to meet their needs. The program has two main goals:

  • Fill the critical workforce needs.
  • Monitor the next generation of students to keep them in the region.

Apprenticeship training is not all the training provided at VTL. Every employee is allowed one hour a week for training, but it is up to them to take advantage of the opportunity. VTL uses ToolingU training modules for their in-house training program.

Mr. Teague gave us the plant tour, and I was amazed at how many robots they had doing various manufacturing processes and moving parts from one operation to another. No wonder that only 48 employees at this plant are able to maintain the work flow required of a Tier 1 and Tier 2 automotive supplier. The parts I saw in process were Variable Cam Timing engine components and turbo-charger components. Mr. Teague showed me their Lean scoreboard section where there are visual displays of all the metrics required for a Lean company.  Naturally, VTL is also ISO 9001:2008 and TS 16949 Certified.

From these tours, I could see why world class companies are choosing to locate or expand in the Charleston, South Carolina region. A very favorable business climate, excellent transportation options by truck, rail, and ship for both national and international destinations, a highly skilled, trained workforce, and apprenticeship programs make the region a desirable location for many manufacturing sectors, especially those that export their products.

Looking Back at 2014 and Ahead to 2015

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Most economists are predicting a rosy forecast of more than 3 percent expansion for the U.S. economy in 2015, up from 2.3% in 2014. If it does, this “would mark the first time in a decade that growth has reached that level for a full calendar year.” The unemployment rate is also predicted to drop from the current 5.6 percent to 5.3 percent. The questions are: How much will American manufacturing benefit from this expansion and how many manufacturing jobs will be created?

While the country gained 252,000 jobs in December, only 17,000 were manufacturing jobs according the monthly report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics ? “In December, …Manufacturing added an average of 16,000 jobs per month in 2014, compared with an average gain of 7,000 jobs per month in 2013.”

This was a significant increase over the previous year, but notice that President Obama recently stated that “more than 764,000 manufacturing jobs have been gained since the end of the recession.” This means that we still have a long way to go to recoup the 5.8 million manufacturing jobs that we lost between the years 2000 – 2009. According to Scott Paul, President of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, “…December’s manufacturing job gains were behind the previous month, and that halfway through the president’s second term, the country is just over one-quarter of the way to his pledge to create 1 million new manufacturing jobs in that four-year span.”

While the U3 unemployment rate dropped to 5.6 percent, the U6 rate is double at11.2 percent. The U-6 rate includes “Total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force.”

In a recent article, business reporter Jonathan Horn of the San Diego Union-Tribune noted, “the unemployment rate fell in part because people dropped out of the labor force ? they either retired or left the labor force. Last month, the number of unemployed persons fell 383,000 to 8.7 million. However, less than one-third of people out of work found jobs; the rest stopped looking. The percentage of Americans who are either working or looking for work fell back to a 37-year low last touched in September.”

The January 6-11, 2015 edition of the San Diego Business Journal’s reported that manufacturing jobs in San Diego increased by 3.3 percent from November 2013 through November 2014, for a total of 97,400 industry jobs, up by 3,100 jobs. However, we still have a long way to go to get back to the 122,600 manufacturing jobs in the San Diego region we had at the end of 1999.

Two manufacturing sectors led the job growth in San Diego: shipbuilding and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (drones.) General Dynamics’ Nassco division has contracts for five commercial tankers and one Navy ship and plans to “add about 300 additional jobs to the shipbuilder’s staff, bringing the total workforce to about 3,500.” General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc’s “local employment grew 9 percent year over year to 4,843 as of June 2014.”

In this same article, I was quoted as saying, “For those with skills and experience in a particular industry, things were definitely trending up in 2014…This (2014) has been a year when people could find jobs.” I’m also quoted as saying, “San Diego greatly diversified its economy following the previous major recession in the early 1990s, and that’s made a huge difference in the past several years…One of our strengths is that we’re not hurt as much from the lack of new defense programs.”

Looking Back at 2014

The R&D tax credit that had expired December 31, 2013 was extended for 2014, but has now expired again as of December 31, 2014. The R&D Tax Credit was originally introduced in the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 sponsored by Rep. Jack Kemp and Senator William Roth. The credit has expired eight times and has been extended fifteen times. The frequent expiration of this tax credit creates unnecessary uncertainty for business investment planning. The R&D Credit Coalition, National Association of Manufacturers, and many other business groups recommend that this tax credit be made permanent.

One bright spot on the national scene is that a bill requiring a National Strategic Plan for Manufacturing authored by Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) became law right before Christmas. Three of Lipinski’s previously authored bills had passed the House three times over the past five years, but failed to either pass or be considered in the Senate. This bill was included in legislation that passed both houses and was signed into law by the President. U.S. Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Chris Coons (D-DE) and Mark Pryor (D-AK) introduced the language in the Commerce, Science and Justice Appropriations bill passed by the Senate.

Rep. Lipinski stated, “After many years of hard work, my bipartisan legislation to boost domestic manufacturing and American jobs by. The bill requires that at least every four years the president works with public and private stakeholders to produce and publish a plan to promote American manufacturing. In addition, every year the president’s budget blueprint will have to contain an explanation of how it promotes the most recent manufacturing strategy. This bill guarantees that Washington has to pay attention to what can be done to help manufacturers and workers. Getting this provision into law can really make a difference by leading to economic growth, increased American security, and more middle class jobs that pay hard-working Americans a good wage. I look forward to finding many more “Made in USA” labels on products we see in our stores and online.”

In June 2013, I wrote an article criticizing an earlier version of this bill, H.R. 2447, the American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act of 2013, and was contacted by Rep. Lipinski’s Chief of Staff to discuss my criticisms. I am anxious to see whether or not the current language included in the Commerce, Science and Justice Appropriations bill addressed these criticisms.

In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama pledged to launch four new manufacturing institutes this year, for a total of eight institutes launched so far on an original goal of creating 15 manufacturing innovation institutes. On December 11th, President Obama announced that” the government will invest more than $290 million in public-private investment for two new Manufacturing Innovation Hub Competitions.

One will be in smart manufacturing at the Department of Energy and one in flexible hybrid electronics at the Department of Defense. Each institute will receive $70 million or more of federal investment to be matched by at least $70 million from the private sector for a total of more than $290 million in new investment.”

“The Department of Defense will lead a competition for a new public-private manufacturing innovation institute in flexible hybrid electronics…The Department of Energy will lead a competition for a new public-private manufacturing innovation institute focused on smart manufacturing, including advanced sensors, control, platforms, and models for manufacturing…” The press release invites interested applicants to find more information on the manufacturing innovation institute competitions at www.manufacturing.gov.

While funding manufacturing institutes may have a long-term benefit similar to funding research at other government institutions, there are actions that President Obama and Congress could take that would have a more immediate benefit on the manufacturing industry and create more jobs, such as making the R&D tax credit permanent, addressing currency manipulation by our foreign trading partners, easing taxes to repatriate corporate profits, and actually doing comprehensive tax reform. Let us hope that the economic predictions of a better 2015 than 2014 will come true and that more manufacturing jobs will be created by even more companies returning manufacturing to America.

San Diego Manufacturing Trends

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

From 2000 to 2011, the U. S. lost 5.8 million manufacturing jobs and 57,000 manufacturing firms closed. U.S. Department of Commerce shows that “U.S. multinational corporations… cut their work forces in the U.S. by 2.9 million during the 2000s while increasing employment overseas by 2.4 million.”

Over the last three years, we have finally seen a growth of about 526,000 manufacturing jobs nationwide for a 4.59% growth rate, but California has lagged behind the nation at only a 0.63% growth rate for 7,900 jobs gained. Mainly due to the effects of sequestration on our military/defense industry, San Diego continued to lose manufacturing jobsin 2013, losing more than 2,000 jobs from February – November.

Offshoring has been major cause of slow economic growth after Great Recession and the high unemployment has exacerbated local, state and federal budget deficits. This has resulted in a weakened middle-class, declining innovation, and lower sales levels in weakened home market.

“Reshoring”/Resurgence of “Made in USA”

A September 2003 report prepared for the U. S. Congress U. S.–China Committee on Economic and Security Review Commission, by Peter Nolan of the University of Cambridge stated, “A ‘‘herd herd ‘mentality to participate in the ‘‘Chinese miracle’’ developed among global giant corporations… Global corporations now view China as central to their long long-term strategy.”

A Stone Associates interview with Technology Forecasters (10/21/03) corroborated the fact that some companies were following this “herd mentality” in migrating to China even when it didn’t make economic sense:  “There is a herd mentality with OEMs in China China—sometimes it makes sense, sometimes it doesn’t—not always rational decision… People tell their bosses what they want to hear hear—(going to China) gives a boost to the stock valuation, but you really have to do the analysis on a case by case basis.”

Now, the offshore supply chain dynamics are changing:

  • Oil prices – tripled in the last 5 years raising shipping costs
  • Labor rates rose about 15-20% year-over-year for last 5 years in China
  • Component/material prices increasing
  • Automation/robotics in U.S. has increased productivity
  • Political instability in China – Labor riots/strikes
  • Risk of disruption from natural disasters
  • U.S. $ declining

Most companies don’t look beyond quoted unit price to make a decision of which vendor to select. They don’t do a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) analysis, which simply stated, is an estimate of direct and indirect costs. The 13th edition of the APICS (supply chain organization) dictionary says:  “In supply chain management, the total cost of ownership of the supply delivery system is the sum of all the costs associated with every activity of the supply stream.”

The Reshoring Initiative was founded by Harry Moser, former CEO of GF Agie Charmilles in 2010. The goal is to change the sourcing mindset from “offshored is cheaper” to “local reduces the Total Cost of Ownership” and train OEMs and suppliers on why to source local and how to use TCO Calculator. Free Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) software is provided for OEMs and suppliers/unions.

Sourcing is slowly moving back to the United States. The 2012 MIT Forum for Supply Chain Innovation Reshoring Study revealed:  61% of larger companies surveyed “are considering bringing manufacturing back to the U.S” and 15.3% of U.S. companies stated that they are “definitively” planning to re-shore activities to the U.S. In April 2012 www.mfg.com stated that 40% of contract manufacturers had done reshoring work this year.

Manufacturing Jobs / Year

*Estimated / **Calculated 

The Reshoring Initiative has calculated reshoring’s share of manufacturing job growth since Jan. 2010 is:

Job growth: ?500,000

Reshored jobs: ?80,000

Reshoring % of total: ?15%

Now in 2013, more companies are moving their services and manufacturing operations back to the United States. Nationally, General Electric and Whirlpool have moved some appliance manufacturing back to the U. S. Caterpillar moved operations from China to Mexico and the US. Locally, EcoATM, 451 Degrees, and Solatube have reshored by moving manufacturing back to San Diego County. Some of the parts, assemblies, and products that are not cost effective to come back to the U. S. are going across the border to Baja California, Mexico, and major contract manufacturers in Tijuana, Mexico, such as Sumitronics, are experiencing significant reshoring.

The demand for “Made in USA” goods seems to be increasing and is helping the resurgence of American manufacturing in certain areas, especially true in the apparel industry. Indeed, many consumers like the quality perception boost associated with “Made in USA” labels certifying that these goods were in fact made in America. American made items are also growing in popularity because our production costs are declining while Chinese labor is actually increasing.

Offshore outsourcing will continue indefinitely. The desirable” locations for outsourcing will change over time, and the purely financial benefits of lower cost will erode over time. The challenge is to keep as much as possible within the United States, and if more companies would utilize the TCO estimator worksheet, it would help maintain and return manufacturing to America.

Additive Manufacturing

Additive Manufacturing has been hailed by ‘The Economist’ as the catalyst of ‘the third industrial revolution’ and is projected to have a significant impact on manufacturing in the near future. It has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. Currently about 28% of the money spent on 3D printing of parts is for final products, but it is predicted to rise to 50% by 2016 and to 80% by 2020.

The major Additive Manufacturing methods are:

  • Stereo lithography
  • 3D printing
  • Laser sintering
  • high powered laser fuses powered metals into fully dense 3D objects, layer by layer
  • Fused-deposition modeling
  • A plastic or metal wire is unwound from a coil, supplying material to an extrusion nozzle to form success layers

San Diego is blessed with hundreds of design engineering and product development companies, many of which have one or more types of Additive Manufacturing equipment. There is also a service bureau for Additive Manufacturing in Poway, Solid Concepts, which has all of the types of equipment. A few of the engineering design/product development companies with which we are familiar are:

A Squared Technologies

Clarity Design

DD Studio

D&K Engineering

Dynapac Design Group

Expertise Engineering

Fallbrook Engineering

Flex Partners

Leardon Solutions

Koncept Design

Redpoint Engineering

Triaxial Design

In addition, there is the MakerPlace in San Diego, which inventors and entrepreneurs can think of it as their “dream” garage shop for developing and producing their own products. It is a place where they can use a variety of fabrication equipment & tools to work on projects:  Woodworking, metalworking, electronics, embroidery, sewing and specialty tools such as 3D printers, laser cutters and engravers. There are even

“incubator” offices upstairs for businesses to operate out of the same building as the fab shop.

Training to meet Manufacturing Skills Gap

In 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics estimated that 2.8 million, nearly a quarter of all U.S. manufacturing workers, were 55 or older. The improvement of the manufacturing industry has been a mixed blessing because as more skilled workers are needed, the supply is limited because baby boomers are retiring or getting close to retirement. “The oldest baby boomers turned 65 on Jan. 1, 2011, and every day thereafter for about the next 19 years, some 10,000 more will reach the traditional retirement age, according to the Pew Research Center.” What makes the situation worse is that there are not enough new ones to replace them because the subsequent generations were smaller and fewer chose manufacturing as a career.

This has resulted in an insufficient number of workers trained for advanced manufacturing jobs. Modern manufacturing is highly technical and requires understanding and proficiency in a wide variety of competencies. In the past 15 years, the manufacturing industry has evolved from needing low-skilled production-type assembly workers to being highly technology-infused. Thus, it is more of a skills gap in the specific skills needed by today’s manufacturers than a shortage of skilled workers.

A key component has been the development of the (National Association of Manufacturers) NAM-Endorsed Manufacturing Skills Certification System—a system of stackable credentials applicable to all sectors in the manufacturing industry. In June 2011, President Obama announced that the Skills Certification System was the national talent solution for closing the skills gap and addressing this key issue for American manufacturers. The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) Education Foundation leads in encouraging youth to get involved in manufacturing technologies through STEM-related activities in the K–12 levels, as well as supporting and advancing the Certification System for manufacturing skills.

San Diego is fortunate to have more opportunities for training in manufacturing skills than many other regions as shown below:

  • San Diego City College – AA degree in Manufacturing Technology, Machining Certificate
  • SDCCD Continuing Education Center – metal fab, welding, plasma cutting
  • Miramar College – biotech/biomedical lab technicians
  • Mira Costa College – Machining Certificate
  • San Pasqual High School – two year machining program
  • Chaparell High School (Charter) – two year machining program
  • Quality Controlled Manufacturing Inc. – machining training and apprenticeship
  • Workshops for Warriors (non-profit) – machining, sheet metal fab, welding, programming

Licensing vs. starting a company

As a member of the steering committee for the San Diego Inventors Forum (SDIF), I have noticed that in the last two years, more inventors are planning to license their technology vs. starting a company (probably about 70%) compared to about 50% previously). However, this trend doesn’t hold true for CONNECT’s Springboard program for entrepreneurs according to Ruprecht von Butlar. In an interview, he said, “The demand for the Springboard program has stayed consistent over the past few years, but the composition has changed ? more technology, biotech/biomedical, and life science. All of the entrepreneurs in their program have either already formed companies or plan to form companies rather than licensing their technology.”

I also interviewed Dr. Rosibel Ochoa, Executive Director of the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center, and she said they have 30 teams in their program, and all of them plan to start companies rather than licensing their technology.” The Center serves UCSD professors, graduate students, undergraduate students, and alumni. The professors are the only persons more interested in licensing their technology rather than leaving UCSD to be part of a team to start a company.

The difference between the Inventors Forum and the other two programs may be the fact that most of the inventors coming to our meeting in the past two years have been in the “Baby Boom” generation, now between the ages of 48 – 68, and they may realize by now that they don’t have the entrepreneurial skills to found and develop a company. Also, many of them are serial inventors, who enjoy the technical part of inventing a new product, and then want to go on to working on their next invention. Many of the under 40 inventors seem to be more interested in starting a company.

Outlook for 2014

Positives:

–     Reshoring is creating more manufacturing jobs and generating more regional GDP

–     Additive manufacturing is accelerating development of new products

–     Broad access to skills training is available in San Diego

Negatives:

–     Unknown economic impact of Obamacare for manufacturers because of employer mandate

–     Possibility of full sequestration being restored to pay for extending unemployment benefits

If the current military/defense budget remains in effect without the restoration of full sequestration that affected San Diego adversely last year, this year should be better than 2013 for local manufacturers. All of us in San Diego’s manufacturing industry certainly hope so.

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.

 

 

 

 

How we can Solve the Skills Shortage and Attract the Next Generation of Manufacturing Workers

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

We lost 5.7 million manufacturing jobs between the year 2000 and 2010, and over 57,000 manufacturing companies went out of business. We have only gained about 500,000 manufacturing jobs since January 2010, so some ask why we have nearly 600,00 jobs going unfilled when the unemployment rate for the manufacturing industry jumped is still ranging from 6.4 percent in November 2012 to 7.2 percent in February 2013. The main reasons are:

  • Unemployed workers are mainly from industries that have been decimated by trade deficits with China and American manufacturers choosing to outsource manufacturing offshore.
  • Fewer young people choosing manufacturing as a career choice because of poor image
  • Attrition from retirement that is getting worse as baby boomers started to retire

First, a large percentage of the people who lost their jobs came out of industries that were decimated by Chinese product dumping and the offshoring of manufacturing – textiles, furniture, tires, sporting goods, and the garment industry, to name just a few.

Most of these industries were dominated by large manufacturers employing hundreds to thousands of workers in plants located in the northeast, Midwest, and south. These workers either worked on assembly lines or utilized specific skills suited to their industries. In some cases, a textile plant, furniture plant, or automotive plant was the only large employer in a town. When the plant closed, workers either had to take whatever other job they could find or relocate to another area. In most cases, these workers didn’t have the specific skills needed in high-tech manufacturing industries.

An added blow was the decimation of the automobile and auto parts industry during the Great Recession when North American auto production dropped from a high of 17 million vehicles per year down to below 10 million vehicles in 2008 before climbing back up to about 13 million in 2012.

Second, manufacturing’s tarnished image has led young people entering the workforce to choose other career paths. In an article titled, “What the shortage in skilled manufacturing workers means to a hungry industry” of the e-newsletter Smart Business, Kika Young, human resources director at Forest City Gear Co. Inc. of Rockford, IL, said “Most people in Gen Y out of high school don’t think of manufacturing as a career or as a good option. They don’t think of it as glamorous; they think of it as dark and dingy and dirty and aren’t interested in going into that.”

Emily Stover DeRocco, president of The Manufacturing Institute of Washington, D.C., said, “It’s absolutely true that the image and the definition of manufacturing in this country has not kept up with the industry.” She added, “Companies need to invest more in employee training and make workforce skills a top strategic priority. Our education system must also do a better job aligning education and training to the needs of employers and job seekers. In the face of a global recession and intense international competition, American manufacturers must differentiate themselves through innovation and a highly skilled workforce.”

Third, the attrition of skilled workers through retirement, death, and disability year after year is compounding the problem. Harry Moser, retired president of GF AgieCharmilles and founder of the Reshoring Initiative, estimates that “about 8 percent of the manufacturing workforce is lost each year due to retirement, promotion, career changes, disability, and mortality.” In the machining industry, this means a loss of “about 20,000 to 25,000 skilled machinists per year…In contrast, only about 8,000 per year receive sufficient machining training in high school, community college and apprentice programs to be considered good recruits.”

In 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics estimated that 2.8 million, nearly a quarter of all U.S. manufacturing workers, are 55 or older. While manufacturing has led the United States out of the recession, the improvement has been a mixed blessing because as more skilled workers are needed, the supply is limited because baby boomers are retiring or getting close to retirement. What makes the situation worse is that there are not enough new ones to replace them because the subsequent generations were smaller and fewer chose manufacturing as a career.

The convergence of all of these factors has resulted in an insufficient number of workers trained for advanced manufacturing jobs. It is more of a skills gap in the specific skills needed by today’s manufacturers than a shortage of skilled workers. In the past 15 years, the manufacturing industry has evolved from needing low-skilled production-type assembly workers to being highly technology-infused.

The 2012 ManpowerGroup annual Talent Shortage Survey revealed that 49 percent of U.S. employers are experiencing difficulty filling mission-critical positions within their organizations despite continued high unemployment. According to the more than 1,300 U.S. employers surveyed, the positions that

are most difficult to fill include Skilled Trades, Engineers and IT Staff, all of which have appeared on the U.S. list multiple times since the survey began in 2006.

Jonas Prising, ManpowerGroup president of the Americas, said, “This skills mismatch has major ramifications on employment and business success in the U.S and around the globe. Wise corporate leaders are doing something about it, and we increasingly see that they’re developing workforce strategies and partnerships with local educational institutions to train their next generation of workers.”

Training to Address Skills Shortage:

According to a 2011 U.S. Government Accountability Office study of fiscal year 2009, the federal government had 47 programs run by nine different agencies. The GAO noted that more information is needed to measure the true effectiveness of the programs. “Almost all of the 47 programs tracked multiple outcome measures related to employment and training, and the most frequently tracked outcome measure was ‘entered employment,’ “the agency stated. “ However, little is known about the effectiveness of employment and training programs because, since 2004, only five reported conducting an impact study, and about half of all the remaining programs have not had a performance review of any kind.”

Obviously, we could make government work better and save money in the process by consolidating some of these programs and giving some of the money to the states for programs that work best for their workers. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean programs can be combined. It might not make sense, for example, to combine the “Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program” with the “Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers Program,” or the “Native American Employment and Training Program” with the “National Guard Youth Challenge Program.” In addition, the programs are not equal in size or scope. The GAO reported that seven programs accounted for 75 percent of the $18 billion spent on job training, while two programs (“Wagner-Peyser funded Employment Service” and “Workforce Investment Act Adult”) served about 77 percent of all participants.

However, we don’t need to rely solely on government-funded training for manufacturing jobs. A great deal has already been done industry, trade and professional organizations, colleges, and universities to train and retrain today’s workers and prepare the next generation of manufacturing workers.

For example, the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) was formed in 1995 by the metalworking trade associations to develop and maintain a globally competitive American workforce. NIMS sets skills standards for the industry, certifies individual skills against the standards, and accredits training programs that meet NIMS quality requirements. NIMS operates under rigorous and highly disciplined processes as the only developer of American National Standards for the nation’s metalworking industry accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

NIMS has a stakeholder base of over 6,000 metalworking companies and major trade associations in the industry. The Association for Manufacturing Technology, the American Machine Tool Distributors’ Association, the National Tooling & Machining Association, the Precision Machine Products Association, the Precision Metalforming Association, and the Tooling and Manufacturing Association have invested over $7.5 million in private funds for the development of the NIMS standards and its credentials.  The associations also contribute annually to sustain NIMS operations and are committed to the upgrading and maintenance of the standards.

NIMS has developed skills standards in 24 operational areas covering the breadth of metalworking operations, and there are 52 distinct NIMS skill certifications. The Standards range from entry to a master level. All NIMS standards are industry-written and industry-validated, and are subject to regular, periodic reviews under the procedures accredited and audited by ANSI. NIMS certifies individual skills against the national standards and requires that the candidate meets both performance and theory requirements that are industry-designed and industry-piloted.
NIMS accredits training programs that meet its quality requirements. The NIMS accreditation requirements include an on-site audit and evaluation by a NIMS industry team that reviews and conducts on-site inspections of all aspects of the training programs, including administrative support, curriculum, plant, equipment and tooling, student and trainee progress, industry involvement, instructor qualifications and safety. Officials governing NIMS accredited programs report annually on progress and are subject to re-accreditation on a five-year cycle.

The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), the world’s leading professional society advancing manufacturing knowledge, also provides the following professional certifications:  Manufacturing Technologist, Manufacturing Engineering, Engineering Manager, Lean Certification (Bronze, Silver, and Gold), and Six Sigma. SME’s Certified Manufacturing Technologist program is utilized as an outcome assessment by numerous colleges and universities with Manufacturing, Manufacturing Engineering or Engineering Technology programs.

In 2010, the Society of Manufacturing acquired Tooling University LLC (Tooling U) based in Cleveland, Ohio to provide online, onsite, and webinar training for manufacturing companies and educational institutions. With more than 400 unique titles, Tooling U offers a full range of content to train machine operators, welders, assemblers, inspectors, and maintenance professionals. These classes are delivered through a custom learning management system (LMS), which provides extensive tracking and reporting capabilities. The competencies tie the online curriculum to matching hands-on tasks that put the theory to practice.

The Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, International (FMA) champions the success of the metal processing, forming, and fabricating industry.  FMA educates the industry through the following programs:

FabCast – FMA’s webinar platform utilizes Internet connection and telephone to deliver live, interactive technical education programs directly to manufacturers on such topics as laser cutting, roll forming, metal stamping, etc. Companies can train their whole team at once, even from multiple locations. Companies can break up full days of instruction into modules and spread out over a period of time (i.e. two hours four days a week, four hours once a week for a month, etc.).

FMA also offers on-site, live training conducted at companies on their equipment as well as on-line training (e-Fab) that allows a company to get the training that they need, when they need it. E-Fab courses combine a full day’s worth of instruction by FMA’s leading subject matter experts with the flexibility of online delivery, available 24/7, 365 days a year.

FMA provides a Precision Sheet Metal Operator (PSMO) Certification – the metal fabricating industry’s only comprehensive exam designed to assess a candidate’s knowledge of fundamental precision sheet metal operations. Fabrication processes covered in the exam include shearing, sawing, press brake, turret punch press, laser cutting, and mechanical finishing.

Attracting the Next Generation of Manufacturing Workers:

If we want to attract today’s youth to manufacturing careers, we need to change their perceptions about what the manufacturing industry is like and show them what great career opportunities exist in the industry. We need to expose them to the variety of career opportunities in manufacturing and help them realize that manufacturing careers pay 25-50 percent higher than non-manufacturing jobs, so they will choose to be part of modern manufacturing.

We need to reacquaint youth with the process of designing and building products from an early age and provide them with the opportunities to learn in both traditional and non-traditional ways. Here are some suggestions:

Conduct manufacturing summer camps – In 2011, the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, International (FMA) Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs Foundation (NBT) and the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE) partnered to launch a unique summer camp program called Gadget Camp, where teenagers learn how to build things from concept to creation. Attendees are required to design a product through computer-aided design (CAD) technology and oversee the design to completion. The initial summer camp will eventually develop into a national program with as many as 300 locations across the United States.

Restore shop classes to our high schools – The elimination of these courses from our school systems has inevitably had a negative impact on the way we view making a living with our hands. Project Lead The Way® (PLTW) has been working since 1997 to promote pre-engineering courses for middle and high school students. PLTW forms partnerships with public schools, higher education institutions, and the private sector to increase the quantity and quality of engineers and engineering technologists graduating from our educational system. The PLTW curriculum was first introduced to 12 New York State high schools in the 1997-98 school years, and today, the programs are offered in over 1,300 schools in 45 states and the District of Columbia.

Improve the image of manufacturing careers – The National Tooling and Machining Association (NTMA) is another trade association that has a program to encourage youth to consider manufacturing as a career. NTMA is the Founding Sponsor of an exciting educational program that provides unlimited career awareness experiences in advanced manufacturing technology for students from middle school through college age. The approach has three components: a robotics curriculum based on national standards, teacher training workshops, and competitive events where students showcase their custom-built machines and compete for top honors. NTMA has six active regional leagues in their National Robotics League, a competition of battling robots that generates huge excitement among high school students.

Establish Apprenticeship Programs – In 2011, NIMS launched a new Competency-based Apprenticeship System for the nation’s metalworking industry. Employers are able to customize training to meet their own needs while maintaining the national integrity of apprenticeship training. Developed in partnership with the United States Department of Labor, the new system is the result of two years of work. Over 300 companies participated in the deliberations and design. The new National Guideline Standards for NIMS Competency-based Apprenticeship have been approved by the Department of Labor. NIMS has trained Department of Labor apprenticeship staff at the national and state level in the new system.

Portray manufacturing careers as fun and exciting – the convergence of cloud computing, mobile apps, and gamification within the manufacturing sector is in its infancy. Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in a non-game context to capitalize on youth’s obsession with video games. The best example is Plantville, a new online gaming platform that simulates the experience of being a plant manager, introduced by Siemens Industry, Inc. in March 2011. Players are faced with the challenge of maintaining the operation of their plant while trying to improve the productivity, efficiency, sustainability and overall health of their facility.

The existing programs described and recommendations outlined in this article are a good start to ensure that we have enough skilled workers for manufacturers to employ as more and more companies return manufacturing to America from outsourcing offshore and replace the “baby boomers” as they retire over the next 20 years.