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Training & Education

Awakening to automation

By Udo O.J. Huff, M.ED.

How to implement training and avoid a generational skills gap

May 2013 - Let us assume the following scenario, which is not uncommon these days. The owners of a small- to medium-sized job shop realize their skilled and experienced employees are retiring more quickly than their replacements are coming up to speed. How can the owners create a reasonable plan and execute it before everything falls apart? What educational efforts will most effectively bridge the gap in replacing the skilled trades’ knowledge?

Several steps should be taken in rapid succession.

1. Apply a needs assessment focusing on  planning for the next four to 10 years.

2. Determine the areas of expertise the company needs in its skilled workforce and any special skills required for specific applications.

3. Quantify likely personnel turnover and use generation gap matching to compare expected changes and anticipated needs.

4. Identify the specific skills needed for successful continuation of the mainstream business. This could include a number of areas of expertise: 

Design Engineers with more experience than AutoCad. Desirable knowledge and experience might include inventory design language, hydraulics and pneumatics, and electric/electronic controls.

Welders able to interpret ISO and ASTD prints and applications, who have an understanding of material science, and are skilled in welding various materials.

Statistical process control technicians and programmers for single machine operations or industrial manufacturing cells.

Machine builders or technicians who can interpret ISO and ASTD prints and applications, have knowledge in material science and machine elements, and understand the basics of electrical and electronic systems, statistical process control applications, and pneumatic and hydraulic applications.

5. Determine where to find new additions to the workforce and/or how to begin training the workforce (existing or new) to close the employee generation gap.

Attracting new employees may require offering better pay and employment conditions. Veterans of the armed forces are one good, and sometimes overlooked, potential employee pool who often are already trained and have experience. Another hiring strategy is to use a headhunter or employment agency.

Training generally is an ongoing need, but extra effort may be required to head off a generational skills gap. Planning should include calculation of a budget based on return-on-investment. Also, consider whether it would be better to hire an outside professional or to be your own trainer.

The training program

Planning and developing an effective training program begins with two steps:

 Creating the syllabus and curriculum.

 Planning and developing a designated and adequately equipped shop area for apprenticeship and employee training.

There are additional supportive activities necessary to implement an in-house training program:

 Preparing the company for the training effort by introducing the new program to all employees.

 Integrating HR matters that cross over between administrative procedures and apprenticeship and trainee programs.

 Contacting high schools and community colleges to invite guidance counselors and students to visit the company.

 Contacting local armed forces offices to provide information about job opportunities with in-house training for honorably discharged veterans.

Additional resources 

Numerous sources offer assistance and solid support to companies developing training programs.

 The Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (www.doleta.gov) has a large selection of administrative and subject matter training information. There is no fee for these resources.

 The National Institute for Metalworking Skills (www.nims-skills.org), a government-supported skills application agency, offers tailored turnkey employee training to companies.

 Many colleges offer credit and non-credit classes, as well as customized training courses for a variety of skilled trades, often in connection with an apprenticeship training program.

 Technical schools, both for-profit and not-for-profit, offer training in soft and hard skills.

 An increasing number of technical training companies and colleges provide online training. Such courses typically offer economy and scheduling flexibility.

Companies seeking to educate their employees can simplify both development and delivery of training programs by taking advantage of these resources. Especially when undertaken before a generational skills gap begins to affect production, employee training can be a winning proposition for all involved. FFJ

Udo O. J. Huff is an independent consultant with project experience in machine building, welding engineering, training and development. He holds Master of Education and Bachelor of Science in Technology degrees from Bowling Green State University. Questions or comments? E-mail uhuff@sbcglobal.net.

 

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