The day is coming when automakers and other major manufacturers that purchase precision machined products will base their procurement decisions, in part, on whether a company and its employees are certified and credentialed by the National Institute of Metalworking Skills (NIMS). The movement is already underway, according to Steve Mandes, NIMS executive director.
Whether the customers of precision machined products manufacturers make those decisions solely on the basis of a NIMS credential and certification, or as part of a broader qualification through ISO and QS certification, is yet to be determined. But, more and more customers are doing business with parts vendors that have such programs in place. The goal is to ensure that the parts are made with consistent quality by employees who have been trained and certified to provide that consistency.
“It sends a huge signal to your customer, and it sends the same positive signal to other parts of the organization,” says Mr. Mandes. “It tells your board of directors something positive, and it tells the community and your future workforce a lot about your firm and the way you intend to conduct business.”
Indeed, Mr. Mandes says some members of the NIMS board, whose companies are ISO-certified, have indicated that the NIMS credentialing of their skills training program has “taken care of the whole human resources section in ISO certification.”
24 Sets Of Skill Standards
Just entering its eighth year of existence, NIMS is a Fairfax, Virginia-based organization comprised of metalworking companies, government agencies and trade associations — including the Precision Machined Products Association. NIMS’ basic job is to promote the skills development of metalworking industry personnel. The organization has designed 24 sets of skill standards for metalworking professionals. The skill standards and other activities of the group are explained on the organization’s Web site: www.nims-skills.org.
“Everything we do is industry-written and industry-validated in the field,” Mr. Mandes states. “The standards define what it takes for persons to be proficient in their trade. We’ve defined assessments and issued credentials to certify their skills.”
Working in conjunction with NIMS to train and certify employees is a key element in the PMPA Strategic Plan. “We’re encouraging our members to use NIMS credentials for all of their recruiting, hiring, placement and advancement decisions,” says Dave Burch, PMPA director of management services. “Through the PMPA Educational Foundation, we can assist metalworking companies in sponsoring workers for credentialing, and we’re strong supporters of NIMS’ goal of implementing performance-based apprenticeships.”
NIMS has issued 4,777 credentials to 3,636 people through the end of 2002, according to Mr. Mandes. He notes that for the first 5 years of NIMS’ existence, the institute worked on the development of the standards, including benchmarking its requirements against those in other countries, such as Germany and Japan.
During the last 24 months, the focus has shifted toward credentialing workers and certifying both private and public sector training programs. Mr. Mandes notes that Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania companies have been quick to embrace NIMS credentials and certifications. A major reason those four states are ahead of others is “effective leadership that got them off the ground earlier than anybody else,” he explains.
Students Are Getting NIMS Skills Early
A complementary goal of NIMS is to help community colleges and technical schools become accredited, so that graduating students already have the skills they need when they enter the job market.
“One-third of our time has been spent with industry-sponsored workers and two-thirds in training programs at the secondary and community college level,” Mr. Mandes says.
Moreover, the executive director says the credentialing is going beyond just students. “We‘re seeing a lot of mandates, especially in the public sector, which are requiring instructors to be credentialed by NIMS,” he says. Today, there are 45 instructors who hold Level 1 NIMS credentials
While the program has come a long way since its founding 7 years ago, NIMS and the industry it serves can’t afford to rest on their laurels. As Mr. Mandes sums up, “Our work is only beginning.”