New Manufacturing Training Program in Southeastern Massachusetts
By Chuck Coakley, Project Manager, MassMEP
MassMEP and the Southeastern Massachusetts Advanced Manufacturing Consortium (SMAMC) have taken a giant positive step to help small to medium size businesses in Massachusetts improve the training levels of their employees in a very unique way. Employees have raised their hands to volunteer for training in basic manufacturing skills held off-site at Bristol Community College in Fall River, Mass.
Bristol CC and MassMEP have partnered to utilize a Massachusetts training grant to raise the educational levels for working people in Southeastern Mass. Soon, we plan to include unemployed workers into the same training program with input and direction from our Workforce Investment Bureau teams.
The Southeastern Massachusetts Advanced Manufacturing Consortium (SMAMC) originally began around 2013 when the Commonwealth of Mass funded a sizeable grant to help reduce Fall River and New Bedford area unemployment. The organization initially included board-sitting representatives from companies such as Acushnet Company, Davico, Five Star Surgical, Lockheed Martin, Precix, and Joseph Abboud, but have since grown to include many companies throughout the Southeastern Mass area.
The concept was to have a shared training opportunity so that smaller companies with less than 50 employees could take advantage of educational opportunities with larger companies through a combined resource. Today, that combined resource is MassMEP and Bristol Community College.
Currently, the SMAMC began a new and current Phase #1 of Training on August 16, 2016 as we partnered with Bristol Community College to utilize a solid academic curriculum to attract and retain manufacturing jobs in small to large companies in Massachusetts.
During Phase #1 we project managed 10 companies with 92/105 candidates or 88% of these employees completing their assigned courses. There were 13 cancellations resulting from illness, job schedule priorities, and personal transportations issues.
This Mass Work Force Educational Training Grant of $200,000 was sponsored by a number of high-ranking State elected officials including Massachusetts State Senator Michael J. Rodrigues. Organizations like the Greater New Bedford Workforce Investment Board have combined with MassMEP and business leaders from the local areas to work together in order to provide these training opportunities. The initial training phase included incumbent (or working) students and we plan to soon include unemployed (or pipeline) candidates.
As of September 29, 2016, we have completed an 8-hour Shop Math Class, two 8-hour Geometric Dimension & Tolerances Classes, a 6-hour Blue Print Reading Class, an 8-hour Metrology Class, an 8-hour Lean Principles Class, and a "5S" Workplace Organization 24-hour series of classes spread over two weeks. Participating in these classes were the 92 students mentioned above. Bristol Community College faculty from different professional backgrounds brought their skill, experience, and knowledge to share with these students. Class members were engaged with these opportunities and shared their company and career experiences while instructors led them through their curriculum. The training time flew by.
We offer a "Tip of the cap" to these students who are considered incumbent workers who are taking the initiative to enhance their critical job skills. Feedback from these students has been very positive. Feedback from the participating companies has been positive as well. We have taken comments and suggestions for improvements in course material under advisement and we continue to edit course material to best suit our candidates.
Upon completion of each class, the student earns a certificate of completion from Bristol Community College for that subject matter in the appropriate class (e.g., Shop Math, Metrology, etc.). Students have been excited and enthusiastic about their training because they feel they are taking advantage of an opportunity to learn, get ahead, and improve their job skills.
The SMAMC Training Initiative has been well received by the students. The Work Force Investment Board (WIB) of New Bedford has acknowledged strong positive comments at the recent Quarterly WIB Meeting that they are pleased with the SMAMC efforts. The participating companies, Bristol Community College, and the MassMEP team have reinforced the value to continue these training efforts. Bristol Community College and MassMEP have worked very well together coordinating schedules, classes, faculty, and training material.
To mention names in this SMAMC effort would lead to an oversight in naming everyone involved who has a direct or indirect role in this most important program. Everyone wants this effort to succeed because it translates for more opportunities for people who want and need them.
There is an SMAMC Executive Meeting scheduled within the next few days that will address the next steps for our training program. Discussing the integration of the unemployed (pipeline) candidates is a topic hot on everyone's list to address.