Community Programs and Online Learning Provide Solutions for Skills Gap

Posted By: John Hindman, Director of Learning Services, Tooling U-SME on October 30, 2018

Community Programs and Online Learning Provide Solutions for Skills Gap

The manufacturing skills gap affects companies of all sizes, in all industries, in all parts of the country. Up to 2 million manufacturing jobs remain unfilled – and for small- and medium-sized companies in remote areas, filling the workforce pipeline can be a considerable challenge.

In the recently released Industry Pulse: 2018 Manufacturing Report, Tooling U-SME found that many actions companies can take to develop and retain employees are within their control, yet the majority are not taking these steps. Investing in training for employees and tapping into local community employment programs are two ways manufacturers can build and maintain a skilled workforce.

When Dixon Valve and Coupling Company, a medium-sized manufacturing company on the eastern shore of Maryland, needed to upskill its current workforce and bring in new talent to train on the job, it found value in working with the Maryland Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MD MEP). MD MEP is an independent non-profit, funded by industry and the State of Maryland to grow and strengthen the state’s manufacturing industry. As a state-approved apprenticeship sponsor, MD MEP helped Dixon incorporate a competency-based apprenticeship program through Tooling U-SME.

MD MEP created a steering committee of subject matter experts to identify specific tasks and mastery levels for this program and engaged Dixon employees that knew the requirements to help develop the standardized training. This engagement was a positive by-product of the competency-based educational model.

Tooling U-SME’s online classes provided related instruction, skill objectives, and performance tasks to complement the apprenticeship program. Becky Kemp, Program Manager, Workforce Development, MD MEP, found value in the online curriculum as it provided necessary training while keeping the production line moving.

Soon after the MD MEP created the model for Dixon Valve, Berry Global/Berry Plastics, Pompeian Oil, Tulkoff Foods, Crist Instruments, and Danko-Arlington came on board. Danko-Arlington purchased the first 3-D sand casting printer in the United States and now has both CNC and Additive Manufacturing apprenticeships running at the same time.

The flexibility of online classes allows each company to develop a flexible, custom training model, which is especially important for small companies that need to train just one or two people – something that traditional programs aren’t always able to do, preventing some students from completing their apprenticeships.

The assistance MD MEP has been able to provide Maryland manufacturers, supported by online classes from Tooling U-SME, is one example of how companies can train existing employees and build their workforce while maintaining productivity.

Contact us to learn how Tooling U-SME’s partnerships with MEPs all over the country provides workforce education to help manufacturers like you achieve a compeititive edge.

Tags: apprenticeship, CNC, "Competency-Based Apprenticeship Program", "Dixon Valve and Coupling Company", "Maryland Manufacturing Extension Partnership", "MD MEP", MEP, "online training", "workforce development"