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Focus on the Workforce: Building an Educated Workforce

JoAnn Mitchell

By JoAnn Mitchell
Senior Project Leader
Sandvik Coromant US
Fair Lawn, NJ

As the nation that was home to both Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, the United States has long been considered a world leader in technology and innovation—a fertile ground for forward-looking and enterprising manufacturing. But such leadership in ideas didn’t appear out of thin air. In fact, innovation has been a function of a vast reserve of creative minds working in a healthy manufacturing base and has been the logical conclusion of America’s robust manufacturing economy.

However, in recent years, the US has witnessed an education shift away from technology and manufacturing skills. An inaccurate perception of manufacturing as dangerous, dirty work has dogged the industry for decades. Though these outdated images of dingy workspaces and hazardous machines have long since been replaced by the reality of clean, well-lit, electronically sophisticated production facilities occupied by technicians who use computer programming skills, the popular idea of manufacturing is the low-skill assembly line worker in a dead-end job. It’s been a tough image for manufacturing to shake.

Since the advent of CNC and CAD/CAM, manufacturers know how comparatively little manual labor goes into machine operation. Modern manufacturing requires teamwork, planning skills, communication skills, improvisation, agility of the mind, and a large foundation of knowledge covering everything from the workpiece material and the workholder to the machine and the cutting tool.

Sandvik Coromant recognizes that eradicating the myths surrounding manufacturing is a step towards getting students excited about technology and manufacturing again. In some ways, it’s a simple matter of changing public perception about manufacturing operations and the skills needed for a rewarding career.


Openness with Information


At Sandvik Coromant, we have taken an open approach to manufacturing information, making as much technical data available as possible in the form of video Web casts, technical training, printed material and texts, and even free events (called Smart Events) held across the country. Sandvik Coromant application experts are constantly placing technical "how-to" videos and presentation onto accessible websites, and providing information through new channels, like social media and YouTube.

Believing that the best people deserve the best tools, information and hands-on application strategies, Sandvik Coromant crafted its Smart Events program—a series of educational seminars that can help manufacturers get the most out of their tools and machines. By exploring new programming techniques and tooling technologies, manufacturers can cut costs, improve productivity and help keep manufacturing jobs in the US.

Smart Events are free and conveniently located at schools, machine tool partners and at any of Sandvik Coromant’s Productivity Centers across the country. Eight topics are offered in areas like milling, threading, hard-part turning, heat-resistant superalloys, drilling, titanium machining and "Green Light Machining," which covers maximizing the throughput on your machine tools to gain the maximum return on the investment.

In addition, Sandvik Coromant’s technical training has programs designed for every level of manufacturing—from new employees unfamiliar with manufacturing to seasoned engineers. Based on a deep resource pool, these courses provide application knowledge and fundamental theoretical know-how in key areas. Our dedicated Training Specialists provide the tools to help realize cost savings and boost employee confidence and job satisfaction.SkillsUSA Championships

Every year, more than 30,000 customers attend our technical training courses worldwide, often located at one of our many Productivity Centers—three of which are located here in the US. On-site, online or customized training are also available, in local languages.

In an industry that can be secretive and guarded, Sandvik Coromant’s approach to education is designed to help all of us in metalcutting get the best results from our tools and processes. The information we develop and share is designed to help make metalworking more productive and efficient. These programs are also helpful in bringing an accurate picture of modern industrial manufacturing to an audience outside the industry, including students.



Bridging the Skills Gap


As part of the Smart Event series, the "Bridging the Skills Gap" event addresses the growing gulf between opportunity and available talent in the manufacturing industry. Skilled manufacturing jobs are surging in the US. Concurrently, a large portion of the skilled manufacturing workforce—the baby boomer generation—is preparing to retire, with nobody waiting in the wings to fill the growing number of positions.

Lucrative career opportunities are there for enterprising and prepared young people, and Sandvik Coromant’s "Bridging the Skills Gap" looks to inform all involved—students, educators, and local manufacturers—of the new reality and economy of manufacturing.

The event program provides a complement of seminars addressing the challenges that US manufacturing faces as well as resources for technical knowledge in the metalcutting process. What types of skills will the future manufacturing workforce require? What metalcutting capability, materials understanding, and general knowledge base will be most beneficial? And what sorts of combinations of knowledge and skills will different industries ask for?



Competitions Invite Exploration, Shed Light on Manufacturing


For 12 years, Sandvik Coromant has supported the SkillsUSA Championships, designed to recognize outstanding career and technical education students in the US. The students compete in more than 94 different trade, technical and leadership fields.

One of our Training and Productivity Center managers, Kevin Mayer, and Senior Training Specialist, Chuck Tate, were involved in supporting, organizing and judging the separate contests in the 2012 SkillsUSA Championships held in June. We supplied the appropriate metalcutting tools for student competitions and ensured tools were the same for each contestant.

The education and success of the next generation of the manufacturing workforce is essential not just for our company, but for the metalworking industry as a whole. This is why the SkillsUSA Championships and other student events are a great opportunity for students to demonstrate skills learned and developed through their schools’ training programs.

In 2002, Sandvik Coromant was even honored with the ISA American Eagle Award in the Value Added Manufacturer category for the company’s community and corporate education program. These programs have evolved over time within the company to engage with the community and provide the necessary transparency to shed some light on what it means to be a manufacturer in the modern era. Our Smart Events are another step in our long commitment to the industry and the people we serve.


Making Manufacturing Cool


Earlier this year, Sandvik Coromant recognized an opportunity to change faulty negative perceptions, and joined the "Surgeons of Steel" program in an effort to make manufacturing relevant to a population who grew up with digital technology.

Sandvik Coromant accompanied 300 middle school students in Rockford, IL, for a program that educated them about careers in modern manufacturing. From that program, 30 eighth graders were selected for a visit to the Sandvik Coromant Productivity Center in Schaumburg, IL. The students were selected for the program due to special interest and capability in metalworking and technology fields.

Eisenhower Middle School is participating in the Rockford School District’s Introduction to Manufacturing Program, which created the Pathways for Technical Careers Academy to expose interested students to local colleges and manufacturing businesses to help them begin developing career aspirations in the manufacturing industry.

During the student’s Productivity Center visit, Tom Henry, Training and Productivity Center manager in Schaumburg, presented a brief overview of the "Bridging the Skills Gap" presentation before detailing manufacturing processes such as milling, drilling and turning. Sandvik Coromant also provided a CAD/CAM presentation, along with a number of live machine demonstrations.

Furthermore, Sandvik Coromant partners with many educational institutions and organizations such as Edge Factor and Reality Redesigned to help promote the modern reality of contemporary manufacturing in high-technology industries.

Maintaining a workforce with proper knowledge and skills is a critical factor in keeping manufacturing jobs in the US and fostering economic growth. Many rewarding manufacturing careers need specialized skills, but may not need a four-year degree. These careers, however, do need strong science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills.

At the 2012 IMTS Student Challenge, Sandvik Coromant will continue its strong support and commitment to education in our industry and help host this important area. Sandvik Coromant will join many other industry leaders in presenting the value and opportunities in manufacturing to an expected 15,000 student visitors.



Return to Production
is a Return to Innovation


America’s long-time role as a leader in innovation and technology has been supported by a healthy manufacturing foundation. A variety of factors have eaten away at this foundation over time, and it’s time for all of us to help build a national manufacturing and technology renaissance. A capable, skilled workforce is imperative to realize the opportunities in modern manufacturing, and an obstacle is a lack of understanding by the general public, including people who could find a great career in our industry.

Through training, education, and knowledge sharing, Sandvik Coromant is developing new talent and interest in manufacturing as well as providing access to modern metalcutting techniques that apply in a broad segment of the industry. It’s up to all of us in manufacturing to help people understand the importance and the value of repopulating the workforce and of reinforcing the manufacturing underpinnings of American leadership in technology and innovation. ME 



This article was first published in the August 2012 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.  Click here for PDF. 

Published Date : 8/1/2012

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