Manufacturing Apprenticeships to Benefit New Jersey

manufacturing apprenticeshipsIn any successful business, after a demand is established from the consumer, you cannot increase revenue without increasing production. It’s a simple relation of the law of supply and demand. But it can be difficult to increase production without an influx of skilled employees, which can be the case in the manufacturing industry. An effective way to resolve this matter is through manufacturing apprenticeships.

Manufacturing apprenticeships give students and future employees a learning experience inside the trade; it acts as a paid training program. Max Daetwyler Corp. was recently featured in an article on TechTarget’s website for participating with 5 other North Carolina Manufacturers in a program called Apprenticeship 2000. This program is “a four-year program of community college classes in mechatronics and advanced manufacturing coupled with paid worksite apprenticeships”. What makes this program stand out above other manufacturing apprenticeships is that they have an extended eight-month interview process where students attend an open house and an orientation to be evaluated on their skill level. After review, the accepted students will participate in the six-week summer trial period and if qualified, will be offered the apprenticeship. It is a long process but it insures that the program is a good fit for the students and that the students are a good fit for the program.

Apprenticeship 2000, as well as other manufacturing apprenticeships, bring great opportunities for companies; especially for those looking to hire more skilled employees and expand their company. Once manufacturers in New Jersey have established a registered apprenticeship program, the sponsoring companies would be able to hire skilled employees that they personally train on their equipment and machines. And students will have more incentive to not only continue with the trade post-graduation, but inspire students to enroll in manufacturing programs. New Jersey manufacturing could highly benefit from programs like these.

Building Workers for Manufacturing Jobs

by Larry Taitel

The mounting need for workers capable of stepping into manufacturing jobs has prompted the State of NJ to get involved in an effort to benefit both manufacturers and potential employees. This has the potential for long-term benefits for all of us who depend not only upon the health of our own manufacturing businesses but also the growth of industry in New Jersey.

The New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development (LWD) and New Jersey’s Talent Networks are partnering in support of one of LWD’s highest priority projects: creation of a statewide Demand Credential List (DCL). Toward that end, I recently attended a “Credentials Roundtable meeting” where employers watched a presentation and then participated in discussions with regard to employee credentials for advanced manufacturing. It’s hoped that the feedback from these discussions will help the Labor Market Analysts design questions for a broader online survey that will further prompt numerous other companies in our state to provide additional input.

At the meeting, one of my colleagues who was presenting opined that most companies which are seeking candidates for manufacturing jobs are less focused on credentials than on attitude and competence. He stressed that most of us are looking for good and reliable people who can be trained in our respective companies’ specific processes. For the most part, I concur.

At Convertech, with more than three decades in manufacturing for the converting, printing and packaging industries, we have learned that the best machinists begin with basic skills. The other two main criteria are a desire to learn and reliability (as Woody Allan once observed, 80% of life is just showing up). Of course, job compatibility and actual job expectations must be measured in, too, but these factors should begin, for potential employees, at the education level.

There’s a clear need for manual experience before individuals can begin moving on to automated machinery. Despite the fact that we’ve entered the Computer Age, where CAD and programming have hastened and refined manual processes, manufacturing requires workers to walk before they can run. In short, we need to develop basics skills training in the area of machinists, tool and die, metal lathe, and so forth. These are the fundamentals that manufacturers require. Further, we need to develop training of core competencies and credentials.

One program that I believe would be enormously beneficial is a four-year apprenticeship program. This should start as early as 10th grade and conclude at the State College or County College level. Such a program would allow actual employers to offer genuine hands-on training to potential employees. Imagine what a serious win-win this could be for everyone involved as we begin to build workers for manufacturing jobs!

Can apprenticeship programs be enacted with college credits earned so parents can see an actual educational path (read: college path) for their children? Yes.

I, for one, don’t believe college is appropriate for everyone. But to satisfy the ingrained notions many hold that college is indeed mandatory in this day and age, adding real-world skills to early academic training might prove eye-opening to both parents and students alike. Indeed, it may signal to many young people that a potential career in manufacturing—where jobs are currently a plenty—may hold superior and more desirable prospects than that desired career in another industry where jobs are few and, quite possibly, less satisfying.

Larry Taitel is president of Convertech Inc. (Convertech.com)

Grateful acknowledgements to Mark Spaulding at Converting Quarterly for originally printing this op-ed.