Partnerships Offer Solutions to Skills Gap Challenges

Posted By: Jeannine Kunz, Chief Workforce Development Officer, SME on March 25, 2019

Jeannine Kunz, Vice President, Tooling U-SME

Many manufacturers recognize they are challenged with a skills gap but don’t know where to start. One innovative way to address the need for training is to create a collaboration between industry and education, such as between a local manufacturer and a community college.

F&P America is a long-standing automotive supplier of specialty functional suspension products in Troy, Ohio. F&P has been challenged with finding workers who have the technical skills they need. To help solve the problem, F&P turned to Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio, to offer training to the company’s employees through Sinclair’s SkillsTrac program.

SkillsTrac was the result of a Department of Labor grant back in 2007, which offered flexible training options to help address the skilled labor shortage in the surrounding communities. When the grant ended in 2010, F&P and other local manufacturers saw the value of skilled training and the potential for filling their workforce needs and provided support to sustain the program which is still going strong today.

The SkillsTrac program consists of five levels that cover mechanical, electrical, fluid power and controls, and automation skills that are typically found in maintenance environments in modern manufacturing operations. The program is delivered in a hybrid, self-paced format, combining Tooling U-SME online curriculum with hands-on lab exercises facilitated by Sinclair instructors in Sinclair labs to allow participants to demonstrate competency.

Since its inception in 2007, Sinclair’s SkillsTrac program has had more than 400 students from approximately 50 employers participate in the program. F&P has put 34 people through the program in various skills areas, including maintenance fundamentals and industrial maintenance, industrial electricity and fluid power, industrial controls and PLCs, and automation systems and robotics.

The program has allowed Sinclair to meet the needs of local industry partners by providing a flexible and effective means to develop industrial maintenance skills within their workforce. F&P says their workers feel invested in the company, and employee retention has increased at the company. The program has provided a pathway to high-skilled and well-paid jobs that can sustain and support a family, keep residents in the community, and grow the local economy.

F&P and Sinclair Community College’s solution to the skills gap is an innovative example of creating partnerships that benefit the local community. It’s one of many ways to address the skills gap challenge. The most important action manufacturers can take is just to start – even if it’s something small.

To learn more about how other manufacturers are addressing the skills gap in their organizations, download our Industry Pulse: 2018 Manufacturing Workforce Report.

Or listen to our recent Industry Pulse webinar with Michael Freed, Manager, Manufacturing Solutions, Workforce Development, Sinclair Community College and Delane Sloan, Senior Manager of Human Resources, F& P American.

Tags: "F&P America", "manufacturing skills gap", "Sinclair Community College", SkillsTrac, "workforce development"