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From the Desk of Jack Healy

Finally, A System to Support Change in Manufacturing

Jack Healy – The voice of manufacturing in Massachusetts
Jack Healy –
The Voice of Manufacturing in Massachusetts

By Jack Healy, Director of Operations, MassMEP jackh@massmep.org

According to International Data Corporation (IDC), "Vendors shipped over 1 billion smartphones worldwide, up 38.4% from the 725.3 million units in 2012."  IDC indicates that the "sub $150 smartphones are now the majority of shipments, bringing a solid computing experience into the hands of many." I can't think of a better single indicator that illustrates the tremendous potential for change.

Conversely, there is change occurring that indicates with the right enterprises the deindustrialization of America can come to an end. Even in this slow growth economy, manufacturing in Massachusetts has experienced real change, with a phenomenal GDP compound growth record of 5.77% from 2009 -2012. This manufacturing renewal is not part of a general recovery as the compound manufacturing growth for all of New England (including MA) was at 3.94% for the same period.

The growth in manufacturing in Massachusetts is solely attributable to the 8.83% compounded growth rate for durable goods over the same period. This is thanks to the productivity investments of the manufacturing enterprises, e.g. medical instruments, navigational instruments, measuring instruments, etc., that did not participate in the deindustrialization movement. Instead, they remained here and created new processes and products that generated real change.

Now, with this change, comes the challenge of providing the supporting skills base to ensure continual growth of this industry. The Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP) has made skills development one of its top priorities through the development of the MassMEP Critical Skills Development System. This system is a process that takes into consideration the dynamics of assessing, training, and credentialing, is accessible and workable for SME's, and is sustainable over the long term.

The system is based on a continuum of events that build on each other. There are three basic components: Critical Skills Assessment, On-the-Job Training (Competency Development), and Credentialing and Cross Training. These elements are designed to allow an SME to build a system that can be customized for their particular operation. It is also designed to facilitate a continuous improvement element for long-term training as conditions and situations change or evolve for a given organization.

Each basic component of the system focuses on Tools, Outcomes, Documents, and Funding Sources.

Critical Skills Assessment
The Critical Skills Assessment tool will allow an employer to map or take inventory of the skills in their existing workforce.

The outcomes are to develop data derived from this assessment. The data will identify vulnerabilities, such as pending retirements of individuals who possess skills or talents that will be difficult to replace. It will identify needs for a skills development training plan within the existing workforce.

The plan can be constructed to not only address needs identified by the assessment, but more importantly it would drive the company to focus on the true critical path issues. It can also be developed to suit the ability of a given organization to implement. A training plan developed by a company that is data driven positions the company to potentially secure Technical Assistance Grants to offset the costs of implementation.

On-the-Job Training
The On-the-Job Training tool enables the employer to create a comprehensive, structured skills training program that addresses the needs that the assessment identifies. The tool that would be used is the 8-7-6 process. This tool covers training needs for new hires as well as incumbent workers in the first 8 hours, 7 days, and 6 weeks. As with the assessment, MassMEP can facilitate the process.

The outcomes are a system of skills training and progression that is monitored and measured for effectiveness. It would lead to skills progression, promotions to help the company address critical higher-level skills, conformance to ISO requirements, conformance to OEM workforce directives, and pathways for employees to achieve higher wage levels and college credit.

The documents would be the Competencies Training Matrix that assures the OJT plan is properly deployed and proper controls to assure compliance are in place.

Credentialing and Cross Training
Credentialing and Cross Training are the tools in the third component of the system. Credentialing consists of the employer vetted Applied Manufacturing Technology Certification Pathway. Cross training is a standard and encouraged to insure sustainability.

For companies that do not require CNC based credentialing, there is always the potential to develop internal systems and "company branded" certification and credentials that would better suit their particular business needs.

The outcomes are employee retention and sustainability resulting in fewer turnovers through higher retention, lower recruitment costs, and a strategic focus on employee skills development.

The documents consist of the various certificates as individuals progress though the system, including proprietary certificates that companies may implement. The credentials not only cover technical applied skills, but can include eventual college credentials and ultimately an A.S. degree in Applied Manufacturing Technology for those companies where this is appropriate.

Sources of funding to help offset OJT costs would be general, express, and Consortium grant funds.

For a full assessment of your critical skills needs, contact Ted Bauer at MassMEP, email: tedb@massmep.org.

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