Another Look at Training

Two different approaches to training get the majority of attention—general training of potential shop employees (such as that taught in trade programs) and training of existing employees on a shop’s specific equipment and environment.

Twice and thrice over, as they say, good is it to repeat and review what is good. — Plato

How much should we talk about training? The answer to that question is surely dependent on how important the subject is to our readers. Rarely do I visit a shop where the discussion of training and a limited skilled workforce doesn’t come up, so the topic is clearly a top priority.

The way I see it, two different approaches to training get the majority of attention—general training of potential shop employees (such as that taught in trade programs) and training of existing employees on a shop’s specific equipment and environment. These two methods of training do not need to be exclusive and are often more effective when they overlap, such as in apprenticeship programs run by a shop to cultivate skilled workers who may or may not eventually continue on at that shop as full-time employees.

Last month in this space (short.productionmachining.com/GanTrain) I discussed a program spearheaded by Ganesh Machinery in which the company works closely with schools and training facilities to develop the next generation of skilled personnel by providing a low budget customizable training package that includes machine tools and other common shop accessories as well as complete curriculum. In the short time since, I have come across two other training programs that are structured differently, but have the same important goals in mind.

To address our CNC Swiss-type emphasis topic this month, I visited a shop in Oxford, Massachusetts, that uses self-directed work teams to promote a competitive environment that encourages employees to become responsible leaders (Teaming Up in the Swiss Shop). So much of the company’s success seems to be directly related to its approach to training and encouragement of employees to never stop learning.

Ken Mandile, company president at Swissturn/USA, believes that his company’s success relies on a combination of careful, selective hiring to find people who fit well in the company culture, providing them a good work atmosphere and providing them with the training they need to advance. Swissturn participates in a consortium of several similarly sized manufacturing companies that was organized by the Workforce Development Team of the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP). The participating companies voted to include such training options as basic manufacturing skills (shop math, metrology, blue print reading and so on); advanced machining skills and CNC; and lean manufacturing. Swissturn was able to quickly put the lean training to use as it moved to a new facility and involved the employees in incorporating such concepts into the layout and planning of the new location. It’s this open mindedness to a variety of training options and commitment to the success of its employees that allows Swissturn to enjoy unusually high employee retention numbers.

Many training options are available to fit a variety of situations. Workshops for Warriors, a San Diego nonprofit organization, is dedicated to providing job training to veterans at no cost to them. It is the only accredited 501(c)(3) nonprofit that trains, certifies and places veterans and wounded warriors into manufacturing careers.

The organization was founded by Hernán Luis y Prado, currently the organization’s president, who served 15 years in the U.S. Navy. It became an official nonprofit organization in February 2011. The overarching mission of Workshops for Warriors is to place veterans and wounded warriors into manufacturing careers by providing training, nationally recognized portable credentials, work experience and job placement.

PM has covered details of Workshops for Warriors in the past, but recent news reinforces the significance of the organization’s training strategies in the eyes of North American manufacturers. Tooling manufacturer Core Powered Inc. recently donated $37,000 to Workshops for Warriors. The company also contributed a vending machine that it will continue to keep stocked for students, and it launched 70 Veterans at the Table (short.productionmachining.com/70Vets), a GoFundMe fundraising challenge to provide students with a daily meal.

If companies continue to come together in their efforts to advance training methods, North American manufacturing is sure to benefit. It’s this type of forward thinking that made us great in the first place.