Manufacturing talent: The case for ‘homegrown’ expertise
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
While the formulaic structure of manufacturing and assembly lines might not have much to do with company culture at a glance, the attitudes, expectations and even motivations of a brand still make their way into the factory.
Even if two manufacturing outfits use the same machines and tools, everything from timing to technique can vary, which is why it's entirely possible for a manufacturing job candidate to look excellent on paper and terrible on the floor. For years, businesses tackled this issue in the same ways: patience, mentoring, on-the-job training, disciplinary measures and more.
No matter which route they took, they'd either end up spending an outsized amount of time and money making a great employee out of a mediocre one, or driving them away entirely. This got expensive over time, and it was clear something needed to change.
School's in session
The problem with standardized classes in manufacturing or related certifications is that nonmainstream companies are more or less shut out. As college programs built future manufacturing employees from scratch, unique companies were left with little choice but to train incoming employees while hoping they could "deprogram" the information that didn't apply to their manufacturing setup.
This was less than ideal and took a lot of time, so the answer was clear: The middleman needed to come out. Large companies, such as Frito-Lay, have designed their own courses to help streamline the transition from college student to graduate to staff in an appealingly short period of time.
Unless a college professor is working in his or her field while simultaneously teaching about it, there's a good bet he's behind the times. Manufacturing is especially vulnerable to this phenomena, as innovations like AI change the landscape significantly and require new skills each year.
When a company controls its own college course or certification class, it can quickly and easily update changes and tweak course materials for relevancy on demand. This ensures that graduates arrive for their first days of work already well-versed in new equipment and workflows, which in turn means less stress on their managers.
There's proof it works
While the company-college model is gaining notoriety as more classes pop up, the concept isn't without precedent. In 2014, Toyota partnered with a Kentucky community college to offer an alternative program that allowed students to earn their full degree while picking up trade skills in one of Toyota's plants.
That program — then something of a standout and rumored to be a future flop — has thrived, inspiring companies from all industries to follow suit. Arriving with more skills and fewer questions transforms a once-frustrating hiring process into less of a headache-inducing deal for both sides: an education and a job for the students and a premade, highly-qualified workforce for the company.
Whether your company decides to host classes and certification in-house or reaches out to a local college for added legitimacy, there are clear benefits to starting up a class of your own. If your company has been struggling with finding qualified employees that contribute and support company culture, you can do something about it.
Consider writing a syllabus alongside your content or a class proposal between paragraphs of next year's budget. Your company will thank you, and you won't have to worry if the "new guy" is qualified or not — you'll know from his transcripts.
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