Certifications Offer Students Advantages Entering Manufacturing Workforce
Lori Byrne and Krista Maurer, Account Executives Workforce Education, Tooling U-SME on
October 19, 2021
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.
“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
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
“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
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
“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
The school plans to use the program again in Spring 2022, according to
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
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
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
“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
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
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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