Industry Profile: Workforce Shortage?

March 12, 2018 No Comments
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Consider Manufacturing Apprenticeships

toc_features50pxEmployers, ask yourself:

  • Do you have a small, medium, or large manufacturing company in Minnesota?
  • Do you offer training to your employees?
  • Do you provide wage increases based on employee productivity or enhanced skill development?
  • Do you struggle to attract and retain top talent and are looking for successful workforce strategies?  

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may want to consider participating in Minnesota’s Apprenticeship Initiative to obtain grants and expertise and get you on the fast track to starting an apprenticeship program at your business.

The Minnesota Apprenticeship Initiative (MAI) is a partnership between the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI), which works with employers to develop and customize their apprenticeship standards, and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), which administers the five-year grant providing employers funding to help establish their registered apprenticeship program.

Through this initiative, the goal is to engage 100 Minnesota employers to expand and create registered apprenticeship programs in high-growth industries with a $5 million U.S. Department of Labor grant. Employers can receive up to $5,000 for each registered apprentice, to assist with program development, apprentice supplies, and related instruction.

MAI is entering into high-growth industries that face labor shortages, including advanced manufacturing, agriculture, health care services, information technology, and transportation, which sets it apart from its historical roots in construction.

“Today employers are looking for innovative workforce strategies that will provide new ways of attracting and retaining talent that can be customized for their individual company needs,” said Jacqueline Buck, Director of Employer Services, DEED. “Registered apprenticeships through the Minnesota Apprenticeship Initiative are providing employers an opportunity to capitalize in their workforce and see a positive return on their investment.”

All MAI apprentices — including people of color, women, veterans, people with disabilities, and young adults — receive instruction whether it’s in the classroom, on-the-job, shop-room floor, or on a laptop. They learn safety skills and procedures.

Workers earn nationally-recognized credentials, better pay, and advance their careers.
MAI has already created six registered apprenticeship manufacturing programs: maintenance mechanic and technician, CNC machinist, mechatronics level 1, machinist level 1, and welding.

There are more programs currently being developed in food quality safety, laser, maskers, rackers, platers, customer service engineer, industrial specialist, automation expert, line supervisor, and production manager.

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MAI is on track to register 1,000 new apprentices in 30 high-growth occupations in Minnesota through September 2020. DLI and DEED have worked closely with employers in developing new programs and providing assistance for over 200 apprentices in three industries in just 20 months.

“The apprenticeship model continues to be one of the most successful forms of workforce training that combines structured on-the-job learning, with technical and safety instruction,” said John Aiken, Director of Apprenticeship, DLI. “This amazing employer-driven model is expanding to the manufacturing industry where it is becoming an important part of an employer’s workforce recruitment, training, and retention strategy.”

“For decades, labor has invested in the apprenticeship model to consistently develop some of the most preeminent building and construction trades talent in the nation,” Aiken said. “Manufacturers are increasingly realizing the potential of apprenticeship, too. It is not only a great way to train your workforce, it is an investment that benefits workers and helps employers continue to retain their highly-skilled workforce when workers complete their apprenticeship.”

Owens Corning was first on board
MAI’s first registered apprenticeship program was rolled out in 2016 at Owens Corning in Minneapolis. The business makes roofing products and insulation.

Brandon Carlsen, a maintenance mechanic apprentice with the company, took courses in pneumatic components, advanced programmable logic controllers, and fluid power technology. His on-the-job training includes preventive and corrective maintenance, troubleshooting, and pipefitting and plumbing (welding, fabrication, brazing, soldering, and other jointing processes).

“He is now on track to complete his final class at Hennepin Technical College this summer,” said Bruce Gramling, Maintenance Leader, who oversees the grant and manages the three Owens Corning apprentices in training. “Brandon is doing great,” Gramling said. “He has far exceeded our expectations and to some extent he is working with and mentoring a more recently recruited predictive maintenance apprentice.”

The MAI grant has made it possible for Owens Corning to be successful in growing and developing good maintenance people particularly at a time when hiring was tough and turnover was an issue, Gramling said. “From a bench strength perspective, the MAI has been very useful in helping us recruit and develop backup technicians.”

The company plans to enroll 10 apprentices under the MAI grant.

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Alliance Machine Inc. puts training at top
Alliance Machine Inc., in Elk River, is a precision machine manufacturer that provides high-value precision manufacturing to the medical, defense, aerospace and aircraft, and technology industries. Currently, the company employees 44 employees with plans to hire six more employees within next two years.

“By partnering with DLI through the Minnesota Apprenticeship Initiative, we’ve been able to provide valued customized training to our employees,” said Greg Hofstede, Manager of Operational Excellence.

“This apprenticeship program not only develops existing employees and supports retention, but provides us with a great tool for recruitment. We couldn’t be happier.”

Alliance anticipates conducting apprenticeship programs for 16 employees between now and 2020 in positions ranging from CNC machinists to line supervisors to production managers. One successful hire currently in-place is a high school student completing a CNC machinist apprenticeship, Hofstede said.
Alliance employees are dedicated and training is a big reason why. The company has been awarded Minnesota Job Skills Partnership grants and has an internal training room used for customized, online training from Anoka-Ramsey Community College. A future expansion will allow more space for computers and other equipment. Employees can also take advantage of work-related podcasts through St. Cloud Technical College.  pm_endmarkblue-e1320337140493

Questions about MAI?
The MAI grant continues through September 2020. For more information, contact:
Carrie Fink, DEED, or (651) 259-7252
LaRohn Latimer, DLI, or (651) 284-5223
Leslie Philmon, DLI, or (651) 284-5330

Copyright © 2018 Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association. For permission to use or reprint this article please contact Nancy Huddleston, publications manager for Precision Manufacturing Journal.


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