Monday | 14 April, 2014 | 8:44 am

Metalworking and education disconnect

By Gretchen Salois

Misalignment between today’s working and learning worlds hurts manufacturing—but that’s poised for change

April 2014 - Credentials are becoming more of an asset to would-be metalworkers as employers and students alike try to align efforts and create worthwhile partnerships. “There are an estimated 99,500 projected job openings for machinists and 117,100 projected job openings for industrial maintenance technicians nationally through 2020,” says Jim Wall, executive director at the National Association for Metalworking Skills Inc., Fairfax, Va. 

NIMS reported record growth in the number of credentials being sought by workers and students. This latest development comes as no surprise to Wall. “Credentials are competency-based with both performance and theory-based assessments. Students have to be able to perform the tasks and understand the underlying theory—this gives individuals the hands-on experience they need to be successful,” Wall says.

Acquiring credentials exposes students to both the skills as well as the business savvy required to be successful in a career in the manufacturing industry. “I think the industry is recognizing that national industry-recognized credentials are playing a big role in today’s job-seeking efforts,” he says. “This way, certified applicants share a common language with their prospective employer.” 


Interest grows along with diversity

The number of credentials earned in 2013 totaled 13,888, a significant uptick compared to 8,745 in 2012, 7,022 in 2011, 4,452 in 2010 and 3,271 in 2009. Such an increase may also be due in part to students’ changing perceptions of the manufacturing industry and metalworking sector in particular. 

“NIMS has mapped out career pathways so students recognize they might start as a front line machinist but that’s just the beginning,” Wall says. “There are many other opportunities out there in the metalworking industry. The problem until now is that manufacturers have not communicated this well, so some people have a negative perception that these are low skilled jobs that offer no career path.”

Growth is happening. “You have to believe it is market-driven,” Wall says. “The industry is really starving for individuals that have a complete set of skills and look at industry-recognized credentials as a validator of those skills.”

Wall believes interest will continue to mount and as such, diversity will also play a role in tomorrow’s metalworker candidate. “I think we will see an increase in women-driven companies as well as the push for more women to become entrepreneurs in the marketplace,” Wall adds, noting examples are more and more prevalent. 

NIMS board member Kimberly Arrigoni, controller, Haberman Machine, and Altheha DrePaul, key account manager, EJ Ajax, were recently honorees at as the 2014 STEP Awards for Women in Manufacturing. The event, hosted by the Manufacturing Institute, Washington, D.C., is an effort to engage more women in the manufacturing industry. Haberman Machine, currently runs an NIMS competency-based apprenticeship program. EJ Ajax, uses NIMS credentials to recruit and advance its workforce. 

Photos: NTMA Training Centers of Southern California


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