The Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP) and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) recently hosted a delegation of Union presidents from the All Japan Council of Optical Industry Workers’ Union. The Council, representing 63,000 workers, wanted to review MassMEP’s reskilling program, which provides basic technical skills training for manufacturing, with a focus on machine operators. The goal of the visit was to understand how MassMEP and WPI are helping companies to improve their incumbent workers’ skills and provide pre-employment training to potential new hires.
“The Union presidents were interested in learning what kind of manufacturing has stayed in this country, as well as what type of manufacturing is currently being reshored,” said Jack Healy, Director of Operations, MassMEP. “Large Japanese manufacturers, similar to U.S. manufacturers, have moved much of their production facilities off shore. The cumulative effect of this has changed the former Japanese practice of lifelong employment to a more contingency-based (temporary) worker.”
It is reported that 40 percent of the manufacturing workforce in Japan is now temporary. An active discussion regarding the similarities and workforce concerns in both countries revealed several learning opportunities regarding the MassMEP / WPI partnership training programs that address some of the same concerns that the delegation is tackling in Japan.
Torbjorn Bergstrom, Director of the Haas Technical Education Center at WPI’s Washburn Shops, provided the Japanese delegation with a tour of the center, which features 11 Haas computer numeric control machines.
“WPI was happy to provide insights into retraining programs that have been so successful for us over the years,” said Bergstrom. “We look forward to continuing to collaborate with groups on critical retraining efforts.”
In an effort to address retraining issues, MassMEP has developed the Applied Manufacturing Technology Pathway Certification. This credential is an advanced manufacturing certification program that serves two main purposes. One is to add value and merit to the industry to encourage individuals to consider careers in manufacturing. The second is to create a standard instruction set and evaluation process (which is continuously improved) so that employers readily understand the skill set of an applicant, therefore reducing the cost of hire.
The Applied Manufacturing Technology Pathway Certification, developed by the Manufacturing Advancement Center Workforce Innovation Collaborative (MACWIC), is a standard instruction set and evaluation process. Employers can readily understand the skill set of an applicant, reducing the cost of hire. The MACWIC credential is industry-developed and industry-recognized as a way to benchmark the competencies of manufacturing technology students.
In February 2014, MassMEP and WPI gave a $2.5 million grant in the form of software and educational materials to dozens of Massachusetts vocational high schools to allow students to gain skills on advanced high-tech machinery.
For recruiting programs, schools also received copies of Jeremy Bout’s Massachusetts “LaunchPoint” series that features local young people and their journeys into manufacturing.
About Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Founded in 1865 in Worcester, Mass., WPI is one of the nation’s first engineering and technology universities. Its 14 academic departments offer more than 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science, engineering, technology, business, the social sciences, and the humanities and arts, leading to bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. WPI’s talented faculty work with students on interdisciplinary research that seeks solutions to important and socially relevant problems in fields as diverse as the life sciences and bioengineering, energy, information security, materials processing, and robotics. Students also have the opportunity to make a difference to communities and organizations around the world through the university’s innovative Global Perspective Program. There are more than 35 WPI project centers throughout North America and Central America, Africa, Australia, Asia, and Europe. http://www.wpi.edu/.
About Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership
Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP), part of the national NIST MEP system, is a leading resource for manufacturers. Committed to success in manufacturing, MassMEP transforms companies through solutions focused on innovative growth, operational excellence, and workforce development. The organization cultivates a sustainable community built on supportive relationships, idea sharing, achievement, and next generation manufacturing. For more information, visit http://www.massmep.org.
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