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Workforce Strategies

Growing the Pipeline

By Lisa Derby Oden, Workforce Programs Coordinator, MassMEP

The phone rings and the caller says, "My Company is looking for CNC Operators. Do you know where we can find some?" The phone rings again and the caller says, "I want to get into CNC training. How do I sign up?" When these calls started repeating themselves on a regular basis, MassMEP saw the need to build and grow a pipeline for these employers and job seeking candidates.

A curriculum was developed in 2005 (when the unemployment rate was 4.4%) that would provide job seekers with foundational manufacturing skills and a basic introduction to CNC milling and turning. The training was delivered in 80 hours over a two-week timeframe, in cohorts of 12 participants. This format was very successful, achieving an 80% placement – a win-win for the employers and trainees. It also resulted in participants receiving a MA Pre-Apprentice Certificate and three (3) credits at Quinsigamond Community College.

When the economy changed in 2009, employers began to make noises that they needed more. The two week program was a good foundation, but with economic and technological changes, they really needed more depth. With that feedback, MassMEP revamped and upgraded the program to 280 hours over eight (8) weeks and piloted it in 2010. The training begins with the same foundational two week program and moves on to further provide 100 hours at WPI in the Haas CNC Lab, 40 hours of CAD/CAM, 10 hours OSHA General Industry, 30 hours career prep (resumes, interviewing, SPC, GD&T, Finance & Shop Floor, Value Stream Mapping, Manufacturing Execs Discussing What it Takes to be Successful), and 20 hours Math Boot Camp.

A Pipeline with Credentials
As further proof that the curriculum had been built according to employer demand, the placement rate is about 95%. Credentials received by successful completers include: WPI certificate of completion for CNC, CAD/CAM and Career Prep; MA Pre-Apprentice Certificate; Florida Institute of Technology Lean Certificate; and OSHA 10 General Industry. They also are qualified to sit for MACWIC Level 1, 2, and 3 competency-based validation testing and certification.  

Let's talk pipeline here. Manufacturing employers now have a new pipeline for potential employees that come with manufacturing credentials. The pipeline was built with a curriculum based on manufacturers input. It was built to be of value for both the manufacturer and the trainee upon completion as well as further down the road. The eight week training followed by skill attainment through OJT provides the ability to earn and apply 26 credits to the 60 credits required for an Associate's Degree at Quinsigamond Community College.

Bringing Manufacturers and Job Candidates Together
Manufacturers and training candidates benefit from a Job Fair organized specifically for them as they near program completion. Job search skills have changed dramatically with the advent of email and the internet, leaving most job seekers feeling very lost about how to be successful in getting face-to-face time with potential employers.

In 2010, it was challenging to get a handful of manufacturers to participate in this event that is planned differently from traditional job fairs. Utilizing a "speed dating" format, the job fair allows the manufacturer to have a 10 minute interview with each candidate. This provides the manufacturer with insight into who they would like to bring back to their location for a full interview. It also provides the candidate with the opportunity to get interviewing practice.

As time has progressed, the Job Fair has proved to be a valuable opportunity and its popularity has grown. In 2012, five employers were invited, and as a result of the job fair, three of the companies hired six of the participants. Feedback that the employers provided included:

"Excellent event! It was well organized and the candidates were the ones we needed to see. Great job. We will follow up with several candidates about possible full time positions."

"We have been trying for years and years to find qualified people. I have hundreds of resumes sitting on my desk, but your job fair made things very easy for me. I didn't need to go through hundreds of resumes to meet with a handful of qualified people. You had a lot of good candidates. We would like to be involved when you do this again."

Fast forward to March 2015. Twenty-two manufacturers attended the Job Fair. Nine of those companies have attended the Job Fair before and are back again. Several of the companies have hired more than one candidate and are back looking for more. Feedback from a manufacturer new to this format included:

"I also found talking with other company representatives as beneficial in that we are all in the same boat regarding finding good help. Others have utilized your services and told me that they have been very happy with the candidates they have hired. Thank you for all your hard work and allowing me to participate, I would be very interested in upcoming events."

Next Job Fair: May 2015
MassMEP's next "MA More Skilled Workers"* CNC Machine Operator class is underway and we are planning another speed dating Job Fair in early May. If you would like to be kept informed of the event details, please contact Lisa Derby Oden at lisao@massmep.org or 508-831-7020.

*The Massachusetts More Skilled Workers Program is funded by a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment & Training Administration.

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