Workforce Program Creates Employees Necessary for Company's Growth
"We have grown 100% over the last 4 years. Our workforce has more than doubled with the addition of 21 jobs in total; 15 of those hires came from the (MACWIC) program! I have also invested $1.5M in new equipment and expanded facilities. We'll need more people to run those new machines. Without these employees and the training they had, we would not have been able to grow like we did. Hiring individuals who were already trained made a significant impact on our ability to take on new business. We have been fortunate. So many companies are looking for talent. Through our partnership with MassMEP and MACWIC, we have had a hand in helping to develop our own!" – Dirk Kuyper, President, Precision Machinists Co.
The Growth Challenge
Precision Machinists Co., Inc. creates high quality components for the military, aerospace, medical device, and semiconductor industries throughout the United States and Canada. The ISO Certified Company started over 30 years ago. When Dirk Kuyper bought it in 2014, the company specialized in producing parts for the medical device industry and that is what he planned to do, as well. However, he soon found his business evolving into a high production job shop, working in stainless steel, titanium, copper, and super alloys.
The past few years have been a whirlwind, filled with investments in new machinery, updating management and shop floor techniques and certifications, and the need to hire many new employees to keep up with the growth and ensure customer satisfaction and the highest quality.
Managing Growth Through Training
Not one to sit back and assume that his workforce needs would simply take care of themselves, Kuyper became an active member of MACWIC, the Manufacturing Advancement Center Workforce Innovation Collaborative, about four years ago. This group of Massachusetts manufacturers, educators, and industry leaders work to address issues that involve the manufacturing community. At that point, the shortage of skilled workers was predicted to get much worse and had become a top priority.
MACWIC decided to focus on machinists first, since so many manufacturers were in need. Much of their workforce was preparing for retirement and nobody was waiting in the wings with the skills to fill their roles. Kuyper attended MACWIC meetings and sat on committees as they tried to determine what type of program could be created and deployed quickly, which could train people who were not currently machine operators in the necessary skills to fill those roles.
"That program (Accelerated CNC Skills training)," says Kuyper, "takes people who are unemployed, underemployed, or mid-career and retrains them with basic manufacturing and CNC related skills to help them and the industry."
Once the Accelerated CNC Skills Training program began operation, Kuyper continued to support the initiative by participating in job fairs for both the Worcester and Lowell classes. He and his manufacturing manager, Bill Spinazola, often offer suggestions about other skills the training could include or enhance based on the current needs of the manufacturing community.
Most importantly, Precision Machinists supports the program by hiring its graduates. Many of its graduates! The people who Kuyper has hired over the past several years have played an integral role in sustaining his company's growth. One could not have happened without the other. In fact, 15 program hires out of a production staff of 33 constitutes nearly half of Precision's workforce.
Spinazola stated that all the candidates they have hired from the Accelerated CNC Skills Training program have arrived with enough training to go to work as operators. Candidates have had the basics and then continue to learn and find their own level. He and Dirk believe that much of the success they have had with these employees can be attributed to the rigorous selection process the candidates undergo before acceptance into the program and the fact that they can be removed from training for infractions that would hurt them in the workplace.
"We have found that graduates of the class have been motivated and positive and have the desire to work which are critical attributes for any employer," says Spinazola.
"Precision has not always been so lucky doing our own hiring," adds Kuyper. "A person won't make it through the Accelerated CNC Skills Program if they aren't motivated and they won't make it on the job either!"
Some manufacturers have questioned how much depth the Accelerated CNC Skills Training can go into in a period of weeks? Spinazola suggested that most of the more precise or specialized work is best taught by the individual shop since everyone uses different machinery.
"The basic skills the students have are a great base to build on," Spinazola says. "HAAS controllers differ from others but having an understanding of how controllers work in general is very helpful. Blueprint reading skills are great, too!"
"Again," he adds, "shops use some different symbols but these graduates have the basics and it makes them so much easier to teach!"
Kuyper recently registered for another Accelerated CNC Skills job fair as he works to fill more positions in his rapidly growing business.