Certifications Offer Students Advantages Entering Manufacturing Workforce

Posted By: Lori Byrne and Krista Maurer, Account Executives Workforce Education, Tooling U-SME on October 19, 2021

Young manufacturing students celebrate graduating

Even with job openings in all industries surging, landing that first entry-level job can be a challenge.

A recent analysis of LinkedIn job listings from December 2017 through August 2021 shows “entry level” job positions often demand years of prior experience. In manufacturing, for instance, 50 percent of entry-level listings asked for 3+ years of experience.

How do those hoping to break into the manufacturing field address that?

Two schools — Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan, and Northwest State Community College in Archbold, Ohio — are offering students an opportunity to stand out in their search for career fulfillment by offering industry certifications.



Lean Certification

“Certifications, like Lean Certification, make you marketable,” said Lisa Eshbach, Ph.D., Professor, Ferris State University, College of Business - Management Department. “It’s a portable, industry-recognized credential that you can take through your career and helps set you apart from the rest.”

Lean Certification is offered at three levels – Bronze, Silver and Gold – from the Lean Certification Alliance, a partnership among three non-profit partners, all recognized as leaders in lean: the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME), the Shingo Institute, and SME.

To achieve Lean Bronze, students must be able to tactically implement lean to drive improvements and measurable results. They deploy and apply lean principles, concepts, methods, and tools within a work cell, work group, and/or value stream.

Students prepare for the Lean Certification using Tooling U-SME’s online curriculum and review information from three recommended core reference material textbooks included for the Lean Bronze Certification.



Ferris State & Lean Certification

Eshbach said that Ferris State is incorporating the Lean Bronze Certificate into the curriculum as a Lean Systems Capstone course for their Operations and Supply Management (OSM) program as well as the Lean Systems Minor and Lean Systems Certificate.

The first group of students went through the Lean Certification program this past spring, and it received very good reviews. The students were traditional students studying Business Administration, Healthcare Systems Administration, and one was a non-traditional student pursuing a master’s degree certificate.

“The students loved it, and the Tooling U-SME team was very helpful in answering all my questions as well as sharing their professional insights,” Eshbach said. “They also provided Tooling U-SME account setup guidance for students enrolled in the Lean Systems Capstone class at Ferris State University.”

In addition to reviewing the content for the exam and taking the exam, the students work on two assignments that relate to developing their portfolio for the Lean Bronze Certification during the semester.



Lean Certification Is Applicable to a Variety of Careers

The certification preparation is another way that the OSM program helps ensure graduates are equipped with highly sought-after knowledge and capabilities about how to improve and manage an organization’s operational and financial efficiency, effectiveness, and performance. Potential careers in logistics, management, quality/production control, purchasing, and supply chain management are obtained by graduates with organizations such as banks, hospitals, manufacturing, non-profits, and other related operations areas.

“We see the Lean Certification ultimately attracting students from all across campus as it impacts a variety of occupations and industries,” said Eshbach. “Our main goal is to develop lean thinkers and leaders for the next generation.”

The school plans to use the program again in Spring 2022, according to Eshbach.



Northwest State Community College and CMfgA

Northwest State Community College (NSCC) partnered with the OhioMeansJobs (OMJ)-Putnam County Office to offer another important industry-driven and portable certification: SME’s Certified Manufacturing Association (CMfgA).

CMfgA is designed for individuals new to manufacturing who may not currently possess enough knowledge or experience for more advanced technical certifications. This includes high school or college students, dislocated workers and individuals coming from other nonmanufacturing sectors who wish to pursue an entry-level role as an assembler, manufacturing associate or production worker, among others.

This summer, four learners went through the CMfgA program. This opportunity was funded by OhioMeansJobs, and was held at their facility. The course features 25 one-hour online modules through Tooling U-SME, focusing on topics such as safety, CNC, robotics, and other entry level manufacturing topics.

In addition to the online learning component, NSCC built in 15 hours of hands-on learning to help learners put their knowledge to work with electrical trainers and table-top units. This unique pairing allows for learners to take concepts from Tooling U-SME online courses and apply them to actual equipment.

“The class was an incredible confidence booster for our students as they received hands-on training along with classroom and online training,” said Suzy Wischmeyer, Director, OhioMeansJobs. “This combination of teaching and mentoring will be life changing as these young students are prepared for the workforce.”



Reaching Non-Traditional Learners

Matthew Kibler of NSCC, who serves as Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Workforce Training Coordinator for Defiance, Paulding, Putnam, Seneca, and Van Wert Counties, has been very involved in the program.

“We assist with outreach to businesses and the community, especially dislocated workers, students not college-bound and others,” said Kibler. “We help them see there are other tools in the toolbox besides just a high school diploma.”

Kibler said they were “over the moon” about the results as three of the four learners earned their CMfgA.

“We work with the forgotten students who struggle with barriers such as poverty, tough family lives, and being told they are not going to get much further,” said Kibler. “Typically, when serving this audience anything above a 50 percent pass rate for credentials is good so a 75 percent pass rate for SME’s CMfgA certification is a big achievement.”

The certification is especially important as part of a portfolio the learners can present to potential employers. It helped one of the certificate earners land a good job at Cooper Farms, a diversified farm and food company based in Northwest and West Central Ohio.



Validating Entry-Level Competencies

“Employers won’t hire without some experience,” said Kibler. “The competency-based certification shows these learners have the foundational skills and knowledge, and employers can take them the rest of the way.”

The other two certificate earners are continuing with their learning. One entered the Owens Community College Apprenticeship Program and the other, who is a junior in high school, is venturing into a welding program.

Kibler said that one of the advantages of the CMfgA is that it is a short-term program that can fit various schedules.

“The CMfgA shows that you put in the work to get trained, and this is important when it comes to wages,” said Kibler. “A living wage is the end goal.”

Tooling U-SME works with educators across the country to bring online training and certification programs to diverse students. If we can help your school do the same, please reach out.

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