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Florida-based EMS provider MC Assembly is meeting manufacturing’s growing skills gap head on by partnering with local officials to encourage more manufacturing-focused career development.
MC Assembly’s Human Resources Director Brian Kingston has been serving as a volunteer board member on CareerSource Brevard’s Advances in Manufacturing (AIM) Grant Committee in Brevard County Florida, which is focused on solving the problem of a shortage of candidates with manufacturing skills to fill open job vacancies. As one of the leading mid-tier electronics manufacturers in the region, MC Assembly believes it is important to participate in finding a solution to this need.
“There’s a serious skill gap; in some places, companies can’t even find solderers to hire,” Kingston said. “About 20 years ago when the dot com boom happened, many high schools stopped teaching manufacturing related skills. Students were convinced that they needed to go to college for advanced degrees and manufacturing was no longer seen as an option.”
For the past 16 months, CareerSource Brevard (CSB), a regional workforce board, has been working with the manufacturing community through the AIM committee, to create an industry led sector strategy to identify skills gaps and build a talent pipeline to meet the current and future needs of the rapid expansion of manufacturing in Brevard County. The effort was made possible through a two-year Sector Strategy U.S. Department of Labor (U.S. DOL) National Emergency Grant for $765,000 from CareerSource Florida and the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), branded as AIM.
The AIM grant is a funding source to pay for building a sector strategy, provide skills training to unemployed workers and on the job training dollars to manufactures who hire eligible qualified candidates to offset the cost on onboarding new employees.
“The federal government is providing these grant training dollars because we are in a national crisis to find skilled workers to meet new advanced manufacturing labor needs,” said Tina Berger, Sector Strategy Program Manager for CSB and administrator of AIM “Twenty-five years ago, a high school graduate could follow an Industrial Arts career path which included blue print reading, welding and drafting classes and found good jobs in industry. As we offshored our manufacturing jobs, many high schools dismantled industrial vocational training. The staggering effect of off shoring those jobs is a 25-year skills gap in the US. The good news is that the jobs are coming back and we are now re-building career pathways.”
U.S. DOL statistics confirm there were about 324,000 manufacturing job vacancies in November 2016. The manufacturing skills gap in the Brevard area was further confirmed by a study commissioned by CareerSource Florida and FloridaMakes to understand the needs of manufacturers in the area. An industry survey conducted by the Economic Development Council of the Space Coast confirmed the regional needs with 90 percent of respondents believing their company’s workforce will expand in the next 2 years.
“There are over 574 manufacturers in this region, including many electronics manufacturing services contract manufacturers such as MC Assembly in Melbourne,” Berger said. “We have a high concentration of manufacturing companies that support the Space Center projects and numerous aerospace and defense contractors as industry drivers in the region. Sector strategy grants require that we identify skills gaps in training and education based on industry input. We must also look at the future needs of new companies moving into the county such as One Web that will build communication satellites, Blue Origin which will build orbital rockets and we are proud that Orion, the Mars space vessel, will be manufactured in Brevard County.”
Berger says these efforts help the Brevard community by providing career training services and resources to move local residents seeking employment into well-paying careers with a promising future in advanced manufacturing, while at the same time supporting the growth of manufacturing talent for the future, which will be in high demand.
Progress of AIM Meetings
In October 2015, AIM held its first meeting in partnership with Eastern Florida State College’s (EFSC) Manufacturing Advisory Council. Employers identified four specific skill sets that needed immediate attention—machinist, solderers, quality inspectors and welders.
Since then, CSB has been holding quarterly AIM meetings, with representatives from over 60 organizations in the community attending, including manufacturing businesses, economic development organizations and education institutions, to find solutions to the skills gap that is being seen in the local manufacturing industry. Industry volunteers actively participate in meetings dedicated to growing a talent pipeline, upgrade current employee skills, and improve education curriculums to address the workforce challenges in Brevard County.
“We’re taking a holistic approach to solving the problem,” Berger said. “You have to make sure that as people go through training, they come out with skills that are relevant to the manufacturer needs. The most dramatic example is a welding program which included 270 hours of pipe welding training, but there is little pipe welding in demand in this county. Industry involvement made all the difference in turning things around.
Other proposed solutions AIM has considered include practical revisions in training, a heavy focus on education and skills development initiatives for high school and college students including internships, investing in on the job training programs, developing effective skills assessment tools, updating the image of manufacturing industry, creating education mapping and training, creating streamlined certification programs designed to facilitate the placement of qualified employees in critical job vacancies, and continually working with industry to identify skill gaps and industry needs by regional employers.
“The manufacturers and educators are in sync and cooperating and we’re having enormous success,” Berger said. “Thank goodness we have companies like MC Assembly who are enlightened, see the big picture and are willing to participate.”
The National Emergency Grant runs through June 30, 2017. CareerSource has applied for an extension to this grant for an additional year so they can continue work on apprenticeship programs and more occupation training challenges.
“It is very rewarding to have a small part in revitalizing the manufacturing industry that is the backbone to a strong US economy,” Berger said.
“I am very encouraged and excited with the progress AIM has made since we started,” Kingston said. “This program has given individuals the opportunity for training, certification, internships and employment opportunities in manufacturing. We have also made a direct impact with teaching manufacturing skills in our local schools again. We have helped bridge a gap with the students and manufacturing. Ultimately this will help manufacturing companies find and retain talent into the future.”
About MC Assembly
MC Assembly (http://www.mcati.com), based in Melbourne, Fla., with operations in Billerica, Mass. and Zacatecas, Mexico, is a national leader in the contract manufacturing arena with annual revenues of approximately $200 million. It provides turnkey solutions to original equipment manufacturers and focuses on assembly of medium volume, medium mix printed circuit boards assemblies (PCBAs) and box builds. MC Assembly's capabilities include surface mount and pin-through-hole interconnection technologies, PCB and box build DFM, DFT, DFA engineering, in-circuit, functional and environmental testing, full box-build and direct order fulfillment.
About CareerSource Brevard
CareerSource Brevard administers The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and Welfare Transition programs in Brevard County as well as grants and other employment support activities. CareerSource Brevard, formerly Brevard Workforce, is a non-profit, regional public/private partnership under CareerSource Florida. Workforce Boards create local workforce development systems through one-stop career centers which combine multiple federal, state, and local program funds, providing comprehensive services, labor market information and access to resources for businesses and career seekers. Visit http://www.careersourcebrevard.com or call (321) 504-7600 for more information about our services and resources. For more information on how you can get involved and have your company’s voice heard contact Tina Berger, Sector Strategy Program Manager 321-394-0515 or firstname.lastname@example.org.