The National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) awarded 13,888 credentials to individuals last year who decided to embark on a manufacturing career or take their existing shopfloor talents to the next level. This record number is nearly 60 percent greater than in 2012, and the positive trend seems to be continuing into 2014. Twenty-five percent more credentials were issued this past January compared to January 2013.
NIMS launched in 1995 to develop standards and credentials to prepare people for careers in today’s highly technical manufacturing arena. It is supported by more than 6,000 metalworking companies and major industry trade associations that have invested more than $7.5 million in private funds over the years. NIMS has established skills standards ranging from entry to master levels, covering a range of metalworking job duties. It certifies individuals’ skills against these standards, and manufacturers can use the credentials to recruit, hire, place and promote workers.
NIMS credentials provide verified evidence of a prospect’s skills to potential employers. They also offer a way for companies to educate their existing employees based on industry standards. Many training programs, such as those at community and technical colleges, incorporate NIMS credentials as performance or completion measures for their metalworking programs.
The organization continues to upgrade its standards and practices as industry needs change. For example, it established a national technical work group early this year to provide guidance and planning for future development. The goal is to gauge the level at which employee skills will need to rise in the next five years in order to keep pace with advancing manufacturing technology.
There’s a good chance that this isn’t news to you. However, Jim Wall, executive director for NIMS, says the organization also can be helpful to the growing number of shops hoping to establish (or re-establish) in-house apprenticeship programs. NIMS uses a competency-based apprenticeship approach instead of the conventional hourly model to enable people to learn and advance at their own pace. In some cases, employees can complete this type of program faster, enabling them to migrate to higher-level positions in less time while saving their companies money.
That said, Mr. Wall notes that small shops sometimes struggle with integrating an internal apprenticeship program on their own. One way NIMS can help is by putting together a regional program that includes other small companies and local educational institutes. He says these and other shops also must establish skills succession plans. It’s vital for them to develop plans—now—to address the inevitable future loss of skilled employees. This includes establishing standardized training practices to ensure that shopfloor skillsets remain high in years to come.
As NIMS expands, so does its connections in various communities. This better positions the organization to help shops communicate not only their local workforce needs, but also what they have to offer prospective employees.