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New joint-initiative aims to teach manufacturing basics to new recruits

If you’ve ever considered a career in manufacturing but didn’t have the training to pursue it, now is your chance.

A new program called The Fundamentals of Manufacturing is being launched this fall as a joint initiative of Manufacturers Resource Center, Workforce Board Lehigh Valley, and Lehigh Carbon Community College. It is funded through a $135,000 state Training-to-Career grant.

Over 15 weeks the program teaches individuals who are new to the industry a wide range of mechatronics fundamentals, including production assembly, electrical fabrication, lean manufacturing principles and Six Sigma, safety procedures, soft skills, and more. “It uses a combination of book learning and hands-on practice for a well-rounded experience,” said Jack Pfunder, President and CEO of MRC.

An advisory council made up of 15 of the Lehigh Valley’s leading manufacturers is offering guidance to the program by indicating what skills they most need employees to know.  “In the past, employees specialized in either electrical, mechanical, or controls,” said Don Worman, LCCC Manufacturing Technology Instructor. “But today those three areas have been merged into one role of mechatronics.”

Finding tomorrow’s manufacturing technicians

An aging workforce coupled with fewer young people entering vocational technical careers in high school and after, has led to a decrease in skilled technicians for local companies to hire. As a result, community colleges are partnering with industrial resource councils like MRC and workforce organizations like WBLV to develop programs that build awareness and provide training opportunities like this new program. Some manufacturers are also instituting their own training and mentoring programs, partnering with an older experienced specialist on their staff with a new hire.

“Local manufacturers are having a tough time finding the right candidates with the right skills sets. You can’t gauge all of that just from a resume,” said Pfunder. “Employers need the confidence that a new hire will work out, otherwise it’s a costly mistake.”

The Fundamentals of Manufacturing will also show someone if they have an aptitude for manufacturing work. “Today’s manufacturing technicians need an inquisitive mind and a talent for problem-solving, and not everyone has that. Usually, people who are natural tinkerers do well in this field,” Worman said. “We hope that after teaching them the basics that it sparks an interest in them to return to LCCC for additional training.”

“Past programs we’ve done were for people already working in manufacturing and looking to improve their skills to get better positions,” explained Don Worman. “This program is different since it’s aimed at bringing people into manufacturing. It targets individuals who are unemployed, underemployed in their current positions; recent high school or technical school graduates, veterans, and those seeking a job change.”

A certificate of distinction

The first nine weeks take place at LCCC, with the remaining 6 weeks happening at MRC at their simulated factory facility. The program also includes tours of local manufacturing companies and guaranteed interview with the human resources staff at a local manufacturer.

Students in the program attend for free thanks to the state grant and are considered a student of LCCC where they will earn three course credits for completing the program. It costs about $2,000 per student to run the program, which has a cap of 25 students for the pilot year. The deadline to apply is August 15. Classes begin September 6 and take place on Thursdays and Fridays. For information, call Tom Bux at LCCC at 610-799-1961 or send an email to tbux@lccc.edu.

“Those who complete the program receive a certificate from LCCC, MRC, and WBLV,” Pfunder said. “This program will help differentiate candidates from other applicants when applying for a job.”

If the program’s pilot year goes well, Pfunder would like to see it expand to other regions in the future, and maybe even go statewide.

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