Manufacturing is dead. Long live manufacturing!
Posted by Bert Maes on September 16, 2010
CNC machinists have got difficult times. Although they are in general paid relatively generously (close to $20/hour), there are fewer job openings available for those whose formal education stopped after high school.
It’s not that jobs aren’t being created in manufacturing – they are. But they are fewer in number. Landing such work need certification after rigorous and lengthy course work.
Those manufacturers that are hiring again, demand advanced technical skills, linked with lean manufacturing techniques and labor-saving technology. The employers complain that they can’t find enough qualified workers, although the unemployed often want to find work.
“Consider, for instance, the job of a machinist. The basic job function hasn’t changed: machinists produce precision metal parts. But the drills, lathes and mills and other tools they use on the modern factory floor are almost always computer numerically controlled — CNC for short — and only as precise as the instructions provided by their operators.
As a result, machinists today not only need to be able to write basic computer programs — they’re expected to be able to troubleshoot those programs, and rewrite them if necessary, if they encounter problems during production. They’re massively better educated, massively better trained and massively more productive today than they were back in the old days.
When you spend millions of dollars on a machine that does four things, and improves your productivity and accuracy, you can’t just hire somebody out of high school who can’t even do the computations to do the setup. You want someone highly skilled, very technical, very knowledgeable.” (Reuters)
To help bridge that cap, groups like the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council, the National Institute for Metalworking Skills, the National Association of Manufacturers and America’s largest machine tool manufacturer Haas Automation are working with schools around the world to develop programs to give workers the skills and certifications employers want today.
The Lorain County Community College for example offers an intensive, four-month program called “Transformations” that gives laid-off workers the core technology skills they need to find a job quickly. This program has been having a lot of success with laid-off workers like Mark Lute, a 48-year-old electrician who lost his job, after 22 years. Lute is now enrolled in a two-year program, where he’s learning wind turbine maintenance and automation robotics.
A second example: CNC machine tool builder Haas Automation has long been aware of the need for skilled CNC machining specialists, and the looming skills gap resulting from the decline of manufacturing training programs. As part of its service offering, Haas invests in strategic partnerships with all types of learning institutions to offer students a way of gaining production floor experience before entering the real world. Worldwide, more than 1500 high schools, colleges and universities participate in the so-called “Haas Technical Education Center (HTEC)” network.
Targeting inspiring schools with dedicated teachers searching for innovative technologies and the most effective way to teach, the HTEC program not only helps train skilled workers for modern industry, but also supports in developing the future owners and supervisors of operations with the right self-management skills, teamwork skills and -with frequent international student and teacher exchanges- international cultural awareness is covered as well.
From my experience in working with principals, teachers and students the past half decade, I know it is very difficult to get kids motivated into wanting to have careers in manufacturing given the fact that in every family there’s probably been some brother, sister, uncle, father, mother who has experienced a job loss and doesn’t speak kindly of the industry.
But think about it: can you build stuff as creative as you want, in those new jobs below $15/hour in service industries like retail sales, food preparation, waste removal, or health care?
Main source: James B. Kelleher (September 2010) SPECIAL REPORT- Blue-collar, unemployed and seeing red. http://link.reuters.com/heg83p