Advanced Manufacturing is Experiencing a Shortage of Skilled Workers

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This part of the world was built on manufacturing. From the early days of the carriage industry through the golden days of General Motors, Flint and Genesee County always knew how to make things.

Although industry has changed, Southeast Michigan is still a center of manufacturing but in a new and different way.  We are now in an era of Advanced Manufacturing.

The demand for Advanced Manufacturing occupations grew by 99.4% between 2007 and 2012.

Advanced Manufacturing has been described as an industrial process that “increasingly integrates new innovative technologies in both products and processes. The rate of technology adoption and the ability to use that technology to remain competitive and add value define the advanced manufacturing sector.” Another author states: “Advanced manufacturing centers upon improving the performance of U.S. industry through the innovative application of technologies, processes and methods to product design and production.”

According to a recent report by the Workforce Intelligence Network (WIN), “Advanced manufacturing is the long-term bread and butter industry of Southeast Michigan.” The new demands of Advanced Manufacturing have created a labor shortage of skilled workers. WIN states that “Southeast Michigan has more demand for skilled trades labor, such as CNC machinists and welders, than almost anywhere else in the country.”  There were more than 15,000 online postings of available jobs for skilled workers and technicians in Michigan.

As advanced manufacturing continues to grow, it increases the need for high skill, high demand and high wage careers in manufacturing. One key element in this new world is the need for a high level of technical skills on the part of workers. Experts predict that by 2018, 63% of job openings nationwide will require at least some college education. This usually means the need for advanced skill training from technical programs at a community college.

Advanced manufacturing is the long-term bread and butter industry of Southeast Michigan.

Mott Community College has been one of the state’s leaders in preparing workers for successful careers in Advanced Manufacturing. Through such MCC programs as Machine Tool Technology, Mechanical Operations Technology, Electronics and Electrical Technology, Robotic Programming and Control, Computer Aided Drafting and Design (CADD), Welding and Industrial Technology, students and workers are given the skills needed for these new jobs.

One area that Mott has been working hard to meet the demands of industry is the Machine Tool Technology program. A new faculty member has been hired, new equipment has been purchased and the curriculum is being improved to meet the industry needs.

Elvin Caldwell, program coordinator for Machine Tool Technology and Mechanical Operations Technology at Mott College described some of the changes that are in process. “Mott has purchased new equipment that will enable students to learn the technical skills that are getting them employed in the industry. Many students get job offers while still in the program. Students learn the foundation of precision machining, programming of CNC (Computer Numerical Control) milling machines and turning centers with G & M Codes, metallurgy, and programming with Mastercam software.”

Tia Simpson of Flint, a current student in MCC’s Machine Tool Technology program, found herself in demand, taking a position at Weber Automotive in Auburn Hills “Mott College prepared me tremendously,” Simpson related, “I enjoy coming to MCC with its smaller class size and more personal attention. I knew my teacher was trying to help me. I wasn’t just a number.  Mott gave me a great learning experience. It is hands-on; we all got to ask questions, it was very interactive.”

When she began her new position at Weber from MCC, she found herself ready for her new responsibilities. “I was very prepared,” said Simpson.

At Weber, Simpson has been working on producing engines for Ferrari, transmission casings for Land Rover and transmission housings for the Ford F-150 truck. “Mott College prepared me for that,” she stated. “Many of my colleagues weren’t prepared as I was. I had the knowledge so I can help someone else.”

The opportunities are still there. According to Simpson, Weber Automotive has hired 400 people since October and is still hiring. Simpson herself has been working seven days a week for the last two years because of the demand for her skills.  Her company is offering hiring bonuses to make the job more attractive.

“Business is booming,” she said with a smile, “and Mott College prepared me for that.”

Currently Southeast Michigan is home to nearly 15,000 Advanced Manufacturing machinists, with over 800 machining and CNC related positions posted in the Southeast Michigan region in the last year. In every group there are more jobs available than trained workers to fill them. Demand for first-line supervisors of production and operating workers increased by 94.6% between 2007 and 2012.

“The Occupational Outlook Handbook” describes some of the kind of jobs in demand.

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) programmers develop the programs that run the machine tools. They often review three-dimensional computer-aided/automated design (CAD) blueprints of a part and determine the sequence of events that will be needed to make the part. This may involve calculating where to cut or bore into the workpiece.

Computer control programmers and operators use computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines to produce a wide variety of products, from automobile engines to computer keyboards. CNC machines operate by reading the code included in a computer-controlled module, which drives the machine tool and performs the functions of forming and shaping a part formerly done by machine operators. CNC machines use the same techniques as many other mechanical manufacturing machines but are controlled by a central computer instead of a human operator or electric switchboard.

Machinists use machine tools, such as lathes, milling machines, and grinders, to produce precision metal parts. Although they may produce large quantities of one part, precision machinists often produce small batches or one-of-a-kind items. They use their knowledge of the working properties of metals and their skill with machine tools to plan and carry out the operations needed to make machined products that meet precise specifications. Machinists first review electronic or written blueprints or specifications for a job before they machine a part. Next, they calculate where to cut or bore into the workpiece—the piece of steel, aluminum, titanium, plastic, silicon, or any other material that is being shaped.

Median wages for machinists are $22.88 per hour, while median salaries for CNC Machine Tool Programmers are $26.07 per hour.  The demand for such skilled workers is shown by the fact that there were 15 job postings for each CNC programmer applicant and 2 job postings for each operator applicant in Southeast Michigan.


Michael Kelly

MCC gets $55.8 million Manufacturing Software Grant from Siemens

At a press conference held at Ford Field in Detroit with U.S. Senator Carl Levin and Congressman Sander Levin in attendance, Siemens Industry announced a $55.8 million in-kind software grant to Mott Community College. MCC Students will now be able to learn on cutting edge product lifecycle management (PLM) software used throughout global manufacturing. The announcement was made during the 2014 Automotive Summit at the Manufacturing in America Symposium.

“Mott Community College has a long and productive history working with Siemens and is honored to be selected for this software grant,” said Mott College President M. Richard Shaink.  “We believe that partnerships like this will allow the college to better understand and update programs that prepare the future workforce for success.  We are excited about the new capacity this brings to the region and the opportunity to further expand our work in design, PLM and digital manufacturing.  We see this technology as a critical element of the innovation enterprise that will lead to the development of new and better products and ultimately to new and better jobs for the greater southeast Michigan region.”

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