Editor's CommentaryFrom the monthly column: CNC Tech Talk
With the recent increase in manufacturing in the United States, many companies are finding it difficult to find and hire qualified CNC people. It should come as no surprise that skilled people who were laid off during the recent economic downturn have moved on to other careers—and probably wouldn’t come back to manufacturing on a bet. So we’re left with an entirely new employment pool that is made up primarily of people with little or no previous manufacturing experience. And companies are scrambling to get them trained.
One source for trained people is your local community college or technical school, many of which have recently brought back or upgraded their manufacturing programs. If you haven’t already, you should definitely get to know what they have to offer. Indeed, you should do whatever you can to support the CNC-teaching schools in your area.
Ideally, you should be hiring graduates and sending new hires to the school for training. And you should be bringing in instructors from local schools to augment your own in-plant training by having them teach classes in your facility.
Your willingness to hire a school’s graduates assumes, of course, that you know, understand and agree with the materials presented by the school. That is, curriculum content must be appropriate to your company’s needs. I’ve been in several companies, for example, where managers are not satisfied with what’s being taught in the local CNC-teaching school, so they don’t support the school or hire graduates. If you fit into this category, don’t just complain, do something about it! Here are a few suggestions for how you can help your local CNC-teaching school improve its manufacturing program.
Get in Touch with the Key People
Of course, if you don’t know who to talk to, you really can’t do much to support the school. Make a simple phone call or browse the school’s website to find key people in the manufacturing program (commonly named Machine Tool Technology), including the dean of the department as well as instructors. Then contact these people. Offer your assistance, and ask how you can get more involved with the school. You may be surprised at how happy educators are to talk to you.
Get Involved with Advisory Committees
Almost all CNC-teaching schools have an advisory committee made up of key people from local industry. They help educators determine which specific topics to cover so that when students graduate, their skills match the needs of the companies represented on the advisory committee. Without the support of an advisory committee, educators are left on their own to develop curriculum materials, and what they come up with may not be appropriate for the needs of local industry.
Schools are always looking for items that will help maintain or improve their manufacturing classes. Machine tools head the list, as they provide the school with lab equipment to work on, but there are countless other items needed to keep classes going. Measuring devices, cutting tools, workholding devices and raw material for lab activities are always in demand. Most schools will be happy to accept just about anything you no longer need and will often arrange for the removal of unwanted items from your facility.
Provide Plant Tours
Be willing to provide plant tours for current students as well as potential students considering a career in manufacturing. One school I know of uses a local company to demonstrate concepts discussed in class. The instructor provides presentations and practice on a given topic, then brings the students to the company to see how things are done in the real world.
Look for other ways your company can help. When the school holds an open house, be sure you are present and let attendees know about job opportunities at your company. If the school acquires new equipment, offer to help instructors learn how to use it. Let educators know they can call on you when they have a need that you may be able to satisfy.
An Added Benefit
Getting involved with your local CNC-teaching school will give you a hiring leg-up on other companies in your area. If you’re on the advisory committee, you will have a real say in what the school teaches, and you will know what graduating students can do for your company when you hire them. And if you are interacting at all with students, they will get to know your company. If they’ve toured your facility, they’ll have a good understanding of the working environment and what you expect of your workers.