Thursday, February 2, 2012

New Center for Business and Industry program aims to boost manufacturing skills

Mark Madore believes it is critical that his employees possess core competencies common to the manufacturing industry. That’s why the director of operations for Sparton Electronics Corp. in DeLeon Springs has enrolled a group of his 424 employees in a new Certified Production Technician training program (CPT) being offered by Daytona State College’s Center for Business and Industry.
 “I’m an advocate for continuous training of our personnel,” he said. “What makes this program attractive is that students can matriculate into other degree programs upon completion, so not only are they getting the training that can enhance their manufacturing job skills immediately, they can take that effort and add to it.”
The CPT training program launched its first nine-week certification classes in late January.  The program is intended to be the first rung in a tiered system of skills training offered locally by Daytona State to current and potential manufacturing industry employees. It addresses the core technical competencies of higher skilled production workers in all sectors of manufacturing. The Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC), a credentialing organization endorsed by the National Association of Manufacturers, awards certificates to individuals who pass any of the CPT program’s four production modules: Safety; Quality Practices & Measurement; Manufacturing Processes & Production; and Maintenance Awareness. The fully credentialed CPT certificate is awarded to those who pass all four exams.
The MSSC certification is part of a national effort to ensure that both entering and incumbent manufacturing industry workers are flexible, easily trainable, motivated and able to keep pace with the rapid technological changes in the industry. “Skill-specific certifications are becoming increasingly important to the manufacturing industry,” said Mary Bruno, associate vice president of Daytona State's School of Continuing and Workforce Education. “Our goal is to train and deliver quality employees to area manufacturers so they can sustain and expand their operations. This program enables Daytona State to provide our students with national certifications that have labor market value, which they can ultimately combine with for-credit education programs offered by the college.”
The program comes at a time when members of the Volusia Manufacturers Association, which endorses the program, anticipate ramping up operations in 2012.
Local businesses leaders and officials with the Center for Business Excellence, which partially underwrites the CPT program, view it as part of the mix that can grow the area’s manufacturing industry. The program emulates similar initiatives under way nationally, such as Minnesota’s Right Skills Now program, that are designed to mitigate a nationwide shortage of skilled production workers. The programs provide the basic training that can help people land entry level jobs in manufacturing, then advance to higher levels of employment through more job-specific education and training in areas such as precision machining, welding, engineering, autoCAD, computer technology and other programs offered by Daytona State.
“I think this program establishes a benchmark for our employee knowledge base,” Madore said, adding that while the worldwide producer of complex electromechanical devices employs highly skilled workers to operate its diversified production equipment, even they can benefit from the CPT training. “It enables someone who, for instance, is good with mechanics to learn other aspects of what skills are needed out on the floor.”
During his State of the Union Address last month, President Barack Obama pointed to boosting American manufacturing as a crucial component of job expansion and rebuilding the nation’s economic vitality. He called for American manufacturers to bring back their overseas operations and proposed new incentives that would make “Made in America” production more economically viable and profitable for the sector.
However, manufacturing industry experts suggest that there are plenty of production jobs available in the US, but not enough skilled workers to fill those jobs. A recent report by the Manufacturing Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers, found that industry leaders struggle to find workers with the skills they need to keep growing their businesses. The report notes there are more than 500,000 manufacturing jobs currently available nationwide.
Part of the problem, according to another institute study, rests in the public’s perception of manufacturing jobs. The study notes that, while most American’s believe a strong manufacturing base is crucial to the economic health of local communities and the nation at large, few would choose the industry as a career choice. The reasons cited include concern about the long-term stability of manufacturing jobs stemming from a history of companies moving their operations overseas to save costs and a perceived inability of the government to lure them back home.
“Perception toward workforce careers is an issue,” Bruno said. “We still have a ‘college for all’ mentality in the US. However, some degrees don’t hold as much value as they once did. That’s the theory behind the whole skills-gap argument set forth by the industry. There are a lot of people out there with degrees, but unless it is something that has a hard skill attached to it, today’s economy is not necessarily looking for that.”
For more information on when the next round of CPT classes will be offered, as well as other Center for Business and Industry programs, please call (386) 506-4224 or email