In-Plant Training

This might be your best bet for filling CNC positions in your shop, but selecting the right candidates for this training is key.

Columns From: 9/20/2016 Modern Machine Shop,

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Mike Lynch

The skills gap has had a huge impact on manufacturing. A retiring workforce together with an indifferent applicant pool has combined to retard the resurgence of manufacturing in the United States. 

Academia has done a nice job of gearing up, however. Most universities, community colleges and even technical high schools now offer excellent CNC training curricula, so you should turn first to your local CNC-teaching school when looking to fill CNC positions. Unfortunately however, the demand for experienced people in your area may be greater than the supply of graduating students. Many schools now have waiting lists of companies trying to hire their graduates.

If you cannot find experienced people through traditional means and if you cannot hire graduating students from your local technical school, join the club. Your only alternative may be to provide in-plant training on your own. 

The first step will be selecting the best people to train from the pool of available, inexperienced applicants. Frankly speaking, my expertise is more related to the training process than it is the candidate-selection process. However, I am pretty good at providing training suggestions once appropriate candidates have been selected. Such may not be the case when it comes to choosing people with the best potential to succeed.

That said, I do have some suggestions. While making them, I will provide several potential internet queries that should help you learn more about candidate selection.

My best and somewhat obvious suggestion is to place a candidate’s apparent motivation level at the top of the list of desirable attributes. Motivated people may currently lack skills needed to produce at a high level, but they will be most likely to put forth the effort required to learn whatever is required in order to succeed. On the other hand, qualified people will perform poorly if they lack motivation. If you are wondering how to gage a candidate's motivation level, search the term “how to spot a motived candidate” in your web browser. This will return a lengthy list of approaches.

Secondly, look for people who show an aptitude for learning new things. An applicant’s learning skills determine the amount of time and effort you will have to exert in order to provide him or her with the technical skills to perform. Search the term “how to identify a good learner” for suggestions.

Thirdly, people you hire must be dependable. You need to know that employees will show up on time, do the work and maintain a good work ethic. Although it may be assumed that motivated people will be dependable workers, you may not want to take it for granted. Suggestions for assessing this trait can be found by searching the internet for “how to spot a dependable worker.”

If you find multiple dependable, motivated people who are good learners, you can further filter your search to include aptitudes and tendencies related to the position or positions to be filled. Consider the position of CNC operator, which commonly constitutes the largest number of workers in a CNC-using company. This makes it one of the most difficult positions to keep fully staffed. Common CNC operator tasks include loading and unloading workpieces, taking measurements, making sizing adjustments, reporting to a statistical process control system, and replacing worn cutting tools. These tasks require people who possess mechanical skills, math skills, decision-making and critical-thinking skills, computer skills, and the ability to pay attention to detail. Suitable internet search terms include:

• “How to spot a candidate with mechanical aptitude.”
• “How to spot a candidate with math skills.”
• “How to spot a candidate with computer skills.”
• “How to spot a candidate who is detail-oriented.”

In summary, I believe the three most important traits a candidate for just about any position must possess are motivation, learning ability and dependability. Focusing in on these traits alone, you should be able to mold candidates into what you need them to be. Other, work-specific skills can be taught, especially if applicants possess aptitude related to the positon or positions to 
be filled.

If you do perform the web queries I suggest, be ready to spend some time rethinking your interview process. There will be countless suggestions to browse through, and varying opinions about what works best. That said, you should find plenty of great suggestions that will help you zero in on the people who will fit best in your company's in-plant CNC training program.

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