Manufacturing Solutions for the Skilled Trades Gap

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The recent announcement of a new federal program expanding apprenticeships and job-training programs is a welcome one for those of us in the manufacturing business. One of the most significant hiring challenges of recent years—the skilled trades gap—is sure to benefit from this infusion of $200 million.

At Aerotek, we have been developing partnerships to tackle the issue head-on for many years. Here are just two examples of how we have worked together with local industry, civic organizations and educational institutions to create custom training to meet unique workforce needs.

Creating a new curriculum

In San Diego, our team recognized a lack of training and education programs for machining jobs. To grow the talent pool for machining, we worked with the local economic development council (EDC) to develop a training program at Mira Costa College. The EDC presented the concept to the city council and identified the economic impact of improving the skilled trades labour supply in San Diego. They validated the need for the program and helped identify potential locations and grants; solicited local companies for equipment, metal and tooling; and promoted the program in the community, ensuring commitment of local businesses to hire entry-level candidates who received this training.

With the EDC’s capital, equipment and facility support, Aerotek was able to work with the National Tooling and Machining Association (NTMA) to develop the curriculum based on labour market talent needs. Mira Costa organized an education advisory board that Aerotek serves on to ensure the program meets the talent needs of local businesses.

The curriculum provides hands-on training to prepare students for the responsibilities of a mid-level apprenticeship in 13 weeks. Aerotek presents to each class to provide career counselling, transition support and resume/interview preparation, ensuring that students are ready to enter the workforce upon completion of their education.

Program has expanded and grown

The machining program at Mira Costa College has now grown into a Technology Career Center, which includes programs for engineering technicians, to meet additional skilled trades and technical needs in the labour market. Partnerships with two other community colleges and a local university allow students to continue their education in engineering and complete their diploma or bachelor’s degree.

The program has received $3 million in grants from the Department of Labor so it can provide job transitioning support to students and candidates, ensuring the local talent pool is prepared to meet business demands. Aerotek has been able to pipeline up to 45 candidates from both the machining and engineering technician programs each year. The machining program has a 98 percent successful placement rate, and about 20 candidates from this program are placed with Aerotek clients annually.

Specialized knowledge for the recruiters

Aerotek also partners with trade schools to improve our recruiting capabilities. In Minnesota, our team tapped into a local technical school’s workforce development program to create a 20-hour training course for our teams serving the manufacturing and industrial sector.

The workforce development program allows the trade school to customize its offerings to meet local business needs. With its support, we developed a curriculum based on the top skill set needs in the market so that our recruiters and account managers can better identify the most qualified candidates and understand client operational needs. The course covers CNC machining, welding and sheet metal fabrication, including:

  • CNC machining: feeds & speeds, G&M codes, inspecting, cutting & drilling on Bridgeport mills and Mastercam programming
  • Welding: MIG wire feed, stick and TIG welding
  • Sheet metal fabrication: setting up & operating a laser cutter, brake press, punch press and turret

The course provides hands-on training to our team from multiple subject matter experts, allowing them to understand the technical requirements of each position. We have taken several managers from our clients through this training as well, giving them the opportunity to see the latest skilled trades technology and practices to better select the right candidates.

The skilled trades gap is a significant issue, but bringing together resources from industry, civic organizations and educational institutions can go a long way toward solving the problem.

Nathan Coin is manager of Divisional Operations at Aerotek. Contact him directly or connect with Aerotek.