After the Grant: How to Sustain Your Manufacturing Program

Posted By: Michael Freed, Manager Manufacturing Solutions, Workforce Development, Sinclair Community College, Dayton, OH on May 23, 2018

Michael Freed

Mr. Freed discusses how Sinclair Community College was able to sustain its Industrial Maintenance Program long after grant funding was over.

In 2007, Western Ohio was facing the same manufacturing skills gap that was beginning to grip the country. To answer the call, a consortium of four educational institutions developed an industrial maintenance program called SkillsTrac to specifically meet the workforce needs of the manufacturing industry in the area and provide industrial maintenance training for dislocated and incumbent workers. SkillsTrac employed Tooling U–SME’s online curriculum to teach essential maintenance theory to its students.

The consortium, Edison State Community College, Sinclair Community College, Upper Valley Joint Vocational School and Wright State University – Lake Campus, received a $2 million Department of Labor grant to purchase equipment for an industrial maintenance program and specifically meet the workforce needs of area manufacturers. Remarkably, even though the grant ended in 2010, the program is still running, in full demand, today in 2018. How did this program become self-sustaining?

Since its inception on October 12, 2007 and until the grant ended in 2010, SkillsTrac had more than 340 students participate in the program. During that time, we issued certificates to more than 125 students, with many receiving multiple certificates. By sustaining the program, we have served approximately 400 participants since 2010 and typically have 25 – 35 active students at any given time. While they do things slightly differently than us, The Wright State Lake Campus is also sustaining its own program.

Leaders Find Solution for Workforce Needs

The SkillsTrac program was fortunate to have strong support right from the beginning, from the Workforce Investment Act Boards serving Darke, Greene, Miami, Montgomery, Preble and Shelby counties in Western Ohio. But more importantly, large manufacturers such as Plastipak Packaging, Inc., became willing partners because its leaders saw the potential of filling their workforce needs.

Our goal was to continue the program and show the manufacturing community the value of investing in their employee’s workforce education, so we developed the program to be flexible enough for mass appeal and sustainability. We positioned it so that each manufacturer that came on board during the development stage had an opportunity to provide crucial input into the program and feel invested in the project. The program at Sinclair also had the advantage that it was just for incumbent workers and we could focus solely on the manufacturing community and their vision.

What really made this program popular was that by using Tooling U-SME, we had the opportunity to create a system of learning that was flexible enough to deal with normal living conditions of the average worker. Employees had to balance work, family life, health, and transportation issues – just life in general. Lab hours were tailored to worker and client schedules so that students could come when it was convenient for them. Couple that with the online learning from Tooling U-SME, and the program streamlined the system making everyone feel capable and comfortable. Our program is so popular that other manufacturers have been getting on board at a rapid pace.

Sustainability Continues with Growth in Partnerships

Since 2010, we have partnered with a significant number of companies in the area that required this type of education and training. One example is Makino North America which is a world leader in advanced CNC machining centers, providing high-performance, leading-edge machine technologies and innovative engineered process solutions for the automotive, aerospace, medical device and general machining industries. Another is F&P America, a world-class tier-one international automotive systems supplier. There were also several Tier-one,- two, and -three automotive supply chain companies, industrial maintenance companies, a pretty hefty group of machine tool/repair/service businesses and even a handful of food processing businesses that came on board.

Another way that we attracted sponsors and sustained the program was to promote the fact that it was modular so each company could pick what it needed for its skill requirements. This allowed us to support other industries without the expectation that they would have to take something that was unnecessary.

Today in 2018, companies pay approximately $9,000 per participant for the full industrial maintenance program, and more businesses are coming in on a regular basis. It helps that Tooling U-SME has always been quick to respond to our clients with good support. We all recognize that our clients have an operation to run, with employee work and personal schedules dictating the outcomes for success. By being flexible, modular, and focused on incumbent manufacturing employees, this program has been a win-win situation for everyone.

Visit Tooling U-SME to learn more about bridging the skills gap through workforce and education development partnerships.

Tags: "conditions of the average worker", "Department of Labor grant", flexible, "incumbent workers", "manufacturing community", modular, "multiple certificates", partners, "self-sustaining program", "Sinclair Community College", "Skills gap", SkillsTrac, "web-based curriculum"