Management May 2017 Print On The Floor Training

Reports from Ground Zero — Growing a Skilled Workforce

Jane Alexander | May 18, 2017

1705onthefloor_adobestock_129170385.jpeg-300x200

The cover and several pages of May’s Efficient Plant might give you the impression that we had a common theme in mind: workforce matters. It wasn’t by design; it just worked out this way. The following EP Reader Panel question fit the theme nicely, though. Our Panelists began answering early and enthusiastically. The bad news, again, is that we couldn’t include all of their responses in the print issue. The good news is that we have this expanded version of the discussion here on efficientplant.com.) Here’s the question:

Q: How were their organizations (or client/customer organizations) helping to develop, empower, and enable skilled workers for today’s and tomorrow’s industries? 

The following responses have, as always, been edited for clarity and brevity.

Industry Consultant, West…


ADVERTISEMENT


Only a couple of my clients are addressing this issue. The ones who aren’t seem to think they’ll be able to entice employees away from companies that are actually finding a way to train the workforce. Development of workers seems to be the largest challenge at this time. Workers hired out of high school have few or no skills that translate to industry, other than moderate computer abilities. Workers hired with tech-school training seem to be hit and miss. Some have valuable skills, but lack work ethics; others have neither.

One client has created a tiered system that has some similarities to previous apprenticeship programs, but the tiers are self-paced, allowing more ambitious workers to advance (and make more money) more quickly. So far this has been successful, to a degree, but a stumbling block seems to be that Millennials do not work for goals that are two or three years away, but want results in one year or less. They also seem to feel that if another employee gets a raise, they deserve one as well, no matter if they’ve completed the same requirements as the other worker. While there are exceptions to this, the situation can lead to  friction in the workforce.

Most of my clients seem to be doing well when it comes to empowering and giving all workers a voice. And most appear to be enabling their workers much better than in the past. This helps retain the long-term employees they have.

Maintenance Engineer, Discrete Mfg, Midwest…

Our plant has begun retraining senior maintenance personnel to adapt to the ever-increasing automation of our production machinery. We’ve also started training some maintenance apprentices to begin refilling the pipeline to replace aging in-house staff (average age in our facility is around 50). We’re using the vocational school in our area on basic skills (welding, shop equipment use, power transmission, and electricity) for apprenticeship candidates and other technical specialists who want to participate. The program is going into its second year, and the only issue we’re working through is putting apprentices in situations where they can use their newly found knowledge in practical settings.

Maintenance Supervisor, Process Mfg, North America…  

Unfortunately, our organization is moving away from technical training for our maintenance people. It has imposed a limited budget for training across the corporation and is using it to train upper management on aspects of contract negotiations and employee interactions. I only have one technician scheduled for training on a PLC course. Nothing else has been approved. This is not an optimal situation, as technicians only buy into their jobs if they can be shown that the organization is interested in keeping equipment working and running at optimum production levels.

Reliability Specialist, Power Sector, Midwest…

Our organization participates in job fairs at the high school, trade school, and university levels. We are active members on curriculum boards at two trade schools in the state. We assist with training recommendations, and provide tools and equipment to the union-trades training facilities. Our organization has an in-house apprenticeship training program, heavily invested into continuous training of all personnel to maintain a highly skilled workforce and encourage training for future positions using in-house training and college tuition support. We also participate in high school-through-college job shadowing programs and internships.

Sr. Facilities Engineer, Discrete Mfg, Southeast…  

Our facility has become involved with Junior Achievement. A variety of our personnel spend predetermined time at local schools leading classes that focus on possible vocations, working as part of a team, and other things to help students understand more about what work will be like. We also hire summer interns, usually in some engineering position. We’ve had chemical, mechanical, and electrical majors.  This year we’ll have an environmental science student to help with some environmental updating. This will be good for us and offers good experience for the intern. The position is paid.

Plant Engineer, Institutional Facilities, Midwest…

We have a Civil Service System, and tradesmen/women must meet all the qualifications and experience before being interviewed. The system has drawbacks, but as a whole, our hires are very qualified. It also allows people to move to other positions by attending classes or studying until they meet the qualifications for a higher position. Some employees who started out as janitors later became laborers, then stationary firemen/women, then building engineers, even an assistant chief engineer.

Technical Supervisor, Public Utility, West…

This is a real problem for the hydro and power-generation industry. We’ve not had good luck “stealing” experienced journey-level employees from other utilities lately. We’re part of a state system, and drastic reductions in various benefits over the past decade have removed the incentive for such personnel to “jump ship” and join our organization.

We’ve developed detailed system descriptions of our project, so if we bring in personnel from the non-power industry, they have a training road map/program with lot of hands-on training.

Our experience with a somewhat expensive service that puts former military personnel into industry jobs has been varied. We’ve been bringing in student interns to support our engineering departments for several years, and have hired one full-time.

Industry Consultant, International…

Concerning this question, I have seen both short- and long-term approaches among my clients. As an example, one operation has chosen to contract out skill sets and hold down costs with a minimum of on-site crafts personnel or crafts-qualified supervisors. This tends to be a bit short-sighted but is “OK” short term.

Those taking more of a long-term approach include a major utility that has chosen to partner with local crafts unions such as IBEW, IAM, Iron Workers, etc., to develop an in-house apprenticeship program. Training is done at the local union facility for one-half day and on the company site the rest of the time, with company crafts Journeymen as mentors. Progress is monitored every six months in a formal joint union and company meeting, and raises are given for progress to a four-year Journeyman status. This type of program, which is administered by HR, works well for companies already operating in a union environment. (Non-union operations I’ve worked with have set up up similar in-house training with local colleges and trade schools, sometimes using local union Journeymen as instructors or evaluators.)

In Canada, I’ve seen several  companies join together with the First Nations Reservation groups to set up specialized schools that provide not only training in  crafts along typical apprenticeship lines, but also for special or heavy-equipment operators, miners, and staff clerical/medical personnel. These companies usually have requirements to staff with as many locals as possible. To meet this requirement, local training and personnel/crafts development is a must. In some of these remote locations, outside sourcing of competent Journeymen is difficult.

Based on personal observations, I’ve found that HR and Operations/Maintenance Management working in conjunction with local craft unions and in-house Journeymen as mentors tend to produce the best and most likely to “stay” new craftsmen, These people are already in the company and are familiar and “at home” with their local environment.

Engineer, Process Mfg, Southeast…

Our plant is a founding member of [a not-for-profit regional workforce-development alliance]. The organization engages in activities to improve the overall training and skill level of [the region’s] craft persons and trade persons and promote consistent application of skill standards in the industrial and contractor workforce. It also works to provide, develop, and implement training programs to ensure consistent skill-level designations for trade persons.   Partnering with educational institutions and others, it provides information and assistance with career and skills assessments, training programs, certification standards, and accepted credentials for skilled crafts persons and trades persons. Coordinating with local industry and employers, it assesses present and future needs for skilled workers and develops and implements initiatives that alleviate shortages.

Industry Consultant, International…

Concerning this question, I have seen both short- and long-term approaches among my clients. As an example, one operation has chosen to contract out skill sets and hold down costs with a minimum of on-site crafts personnel or crafts-qualified supervisors. This tends to be a bit short-sighted but is “OK” short term.

Those taking more of a long-term approach include a major utility that has chosen to partner with local crafts unions such as IBEW, IAM, Iron Workers, etc., to develop an in-house apprenticeship program. Training is done at the local union facility for one-half day and on the company site the rest of the time, with company crafts Journeymen as mentors. Progress is monitored every six months in a formal joint union and company meeting, and raises are given for progress to a four-year Journeyman status. This type of program, which is administered by HR, works well for companies already operating in a union environment. (Non-union operations I’ve worked with have set up up similar in-house training with local colleges and trade schools, sometimes using local union Journeymen as instructors or evaluators.)

In Canada, I’ve seen several  companies join together with the First Nations Reservation groups to set up specialized schools that provide not only training in  crafts along typical apprenticeship lines, but also for special or heavy-equipment operators, miners, and staff clerical/medical personnel. These companies usually have requirements to staff with as many locals as possible. To meet this requirement, local training and personnel/crafts development is a must. In some of these remote locations, outside sourcing of competent Journeymen is difficult.

Based on personal observations, I’ve found that HR and Operations/Maintenance Management working in conjunction with local craft unions and in-house Journeymen as mentors tend to produce the best and “most likely to stay” new craftsmen. People trained this way are already in the company and are familiar and “at home” with their local environment.

If you’re interested in becoming an EP Reader Panelist, email jalexander@efficientplantmag.com.

Tip of the Month | May 2017

“Once you’ve tightened a bolt to the correct torque rating, use colored nail polish to paint a straight line across its head and onto the bolted equipment. If this straight line ever appears broken, it’s an indicator that the bolt has loosened. This extremely inexpensive vibration-monitoring technique provides an important visual cue that operators can easily detect during daily checks and, in turn, leads to fast maintenance response.”

— Tipster: Ken Bannister, MEch Eng (UK), CMRP, MLE, Contributing Editor

What about you?
Tips and tricks that you use in your work could be value-added news to other reliability and maintenance pros. Let us help you share them. 

Email your favorites to EPTipster@efficientplantmag.com. Who knows? Like this month’s featured tipster, you might see your submission(s) highlighted in this space. (Anyone can play. You don’t need to be an EP Reader Panelist.)

FEATURED VIDEO

CURRENT ISSUE

mag_cover0917

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jane Alexander

Jane Alexander

View Comments

Sign up for insights, trends, & developments in
  • Machinery Solutions
  • Maintenance & Reliability Solutions
  • Energy Efficiency
Return to top