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What One Manufacturer Did About the Skills Shortage

Posted By Chris Chiappinelli, April 23, 2012 at 9:55 AM, in Category: Next-Generation Leadership and the Changing Workforce

The Manufacturing Executive community is a diverse group, made up of individuals in various leadership roles across a plethora of industries. They represent many backgrounds and hold many views on the critical issues they face. If there’s one thing that comes closest to a unifying belief in this community, it’s that the manufacturing industry is knee-deep in a talent shortage that will only worsen without action. Simply put, manufacturers looking for skilled trades people and product engineers aren’t finding as many recruits as they need.

We talk about this often in the Manufacturing Executive Council and on the site. In the interest of promoting solutions, I thought I’d share the story of Custom Group, a Massachusetts job shop that found itself handcuffed by these all-too-common workforce issues. What makes Custom Group unique is the way it addressed the problem. The company won a Manufacturing Leadership 100 Award last year for its novel approach to feeding the manufacturing talent pipeline. Here’s the company's story:

Many manufacturing leaders today decry the state of the industry’s talent pipeline, wondering aloud whether the United States can sustain its manufacturing prowess in the coming decades. Carl Pasciuto is a manufacturing leader who decided to do something about it.

Pasciuto is president of Custom Group, a precision job shop in Woburn, MA. Over the years, he has seen the pipeline for manufacturing talent nearly evaporate in his home state, victim of the same trends that have undermined formerly bustling manufacturing centers such as Detroit and Pittsburgh. While the diminishing conditions were not unique, Pasciuto’s response to them was: He decided to create a school for manufacturing training, and work to promote the opportunity in the community.

Pasciuto and his staff created the Center for Manufacturing Technology, a certified training school under the auspices of the Massachusetts Department of Education. The center provides a foundational education for manufacturing careers. “By no means am I creating machinists,” Pasciuto notes. “We introduce the students to manufacturing, give them the tools, and set a great foundation for what we call a manufacturist. We give them all the skill sets necessary so that once they get in as an early apprentice—whether it’s in a machine shop, a sheet metal shop, a welding shop, a fabrication shop—they can pick any specialty they want and take these tools with them.”

After mastering the Cartesian coordinate math they need to understand a CNC machine, students learn basic inspection techniques and workplace skills, including dimensioning and tolerancing; blueprint reading; introduction to quality systems; communication skills for collaborative work environments; process planning maps; and job quoting.

Graduates receive a certificate of their training, an attractive stamp of approval for employers looking to hire people into base-level manufacturing positions but unsure of candidates’ qualifications. The Center for Manufacturing Technology has graduated 25 students to date. Custom Group has hired a portion of those graduates, a significant benefit to a company that is eager to fill its ranks with qualified workers. The remaining graduates are beginning to fill the area’s manufacturing pipeline.

“Manufacturers have become so focused on technology as a replacement for skilled labor, they lose sight of who really makes the product,” Pasciuto says. ”Technology is a tool that aids a well-trained worker.”

[Manufacturing Executive will honor the 2012 Manufacturing Leadership Award winners at the Manufacturing Leadership Summit next week in Palm Beach. Summit attendees can learn what those companies are doing to advance the manufacutring industry, and can share best practices with their peers. More information at: https://www.mlsummit.com/]

Written by Chris Chiappinelli

Chris Chiappinelli is the online research manager for Manufacturing Leadership. He covers enterprise software, sustainability, economic trends, workforce issues, and emerging technologies.


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