Advanced Manufacturing Partnership addressing shortage of skilled welders

May 27, 2014

From biztimes.com: “Fill the skills gap” — by Cary Silverstein – A question constantly asked by business people and the unemployed is: “What are we doing to close the skillset gap in Wisconsin?”

The answer lies in businesses and the community getting together to solve this “gap.” According to Competitive Wisconsin Inc.’s Be Bold 2 study by ManpowerGroup, the unmet demand for metal workers, including welders, is expected to reach 7,101 by 2016. Should these positions remain unfilled, it is estimated that state and local government lost revenues could amount to $265,410,915 over a 10-year job lifecycle.

The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Wisconsin, a non-profit 501(c)(3) established more than 40 years ago, has developed a new generation training solution that addresses the growing skilled worker shortage in the greater Milwaukee, Wausau, Fox Valley and Green Bay regions. It is called the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership.

The HCCW has developed this partnership with Miller Electric Mfg. Co., Monarch Corp., Joy Global, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, technical colleges, government agencies and private foundations with the intent of solving the critical shortage of skilled welders in Wisconsin. Together, they have created a unique employer-approved education and training program, which addresses this shortage in a manner that benefits the underserved low to moderate income (LMI) workers who are often unemployed/underemployed and who are often constituents of the HCCW. This program is not exclusive to any ethnicity, and is open to any state resident.

This HCCW Training Initiative is an anti-poverty solution that connects unemployed and under employed workers with accredited welding skills development and training at no cost to trainees. This program offers a pathway to a higher paying career in welding at an accelerated pace. The median starting pay for skilled welding positions is $35,450 a year. This is a paid training program that takes up to 16 weeks to complete. The participants are immediately job eligible upon completion of the program. This is followed by ongoing on-the-job training to enhance their newly acquired skills.

This initiative differentiates itself by including essential life skills training for participants, including time management and punctuality, critical thinking and problem solving, financial education and communication skills. This program is designed to supply workforce-ready candidates who are able to step into entry-level welding positions. Participants will complete essential life skills training in a mentorship-based support group setting before advancing to the employer-approved welder training course provided by the tech colleges.

What makes this program different?

Solving the skilled welder shortage isn’t just providing technical training. A true solution involves addressing those issues (substance abuse and a lack of essential life skills) which ultimately disqualify someone from employment. This unique program has three primary components: a support system program with trainee mentorship, essential life skills training and technical skills training via technical college partners.

The HCCW provides employer-approved essential life skills training to each candidate including:

  • Time management and punctuality
  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • First impressions/building relationships
  • Computer literacy
  • Maintaining a household budget
  • Communication skills (may include English language instruction)

Technical training is provided by area technical colleges via an employer-approved training curriculum. The 14 to 16 week curriculum includes basic welding, blueprint reading and weld symbols, math, and manufacturing techniques.

Projected results of the initiative

This initiative produces an individual that is responsible, punctual, accountable and reliable, with a strong work ethic and a drive to succeed. These candidates are ready to enter the job market with all the skills necessary for entry level welding positions. The technical college credentials earned in this program are transferable and can be used to attain further, more complex welding credentials. This initiative simplifies and eases the rigors of the traditional hiring process, which permits the employers to review a candidate’s metrics and a trainee’s video profile. Also, they can hire an employee with a proven track record, worthy of further training investment.

The HCCW Training Initiative is a real solution to the shortage of skilled welders. By providing essential life skills and technical training, candidates are able to obtain well-paying jobs. This initiative facilitates upward economic mobility for the LMI constituents served by the program. Once employed in an entry level position, these new employees have the opportunity for further employer training and tuition reimbursement programs. The result is they strengthen themselves and their employers through the adoption of life-long earning skills. The dual nature of this program will help the unemployed/underemployed while providing sorely needed skilled workers, keeping Wisconsin’s manufacturers strong. This training initiative recently received national recognition and substantial funding by the American Welding Society after their review of the program. The HCCW Training Initiative is now considered to be the top AWS skills development program in the nation.

The next step

If this pilot project proves successful, we as business communities should duplicate it across the board in our state. Closing the skillset gap in this and other vocational areas will strengthen our economy and bring new jobs to our communities, while reducing unemployment in areas where few opportunities exist. The resources, both educational and technical, exist in our community. We need to leverage these resources and provide the unemployed with new skills so they can rejoin the workforce and provide a better standard of living for themselves and their families.

The HCCW says its partners report that in the Racine-Kenosha manufacturing sector there are more than 1,000 skilled worker vacancies. Filling the local manufacturing sector’s jobs would contribute to the state and local economy year after year.

Companies interested in joining this program should contact the Hispanic Chamber at skillstraining@HCCW.org.

 

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