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New Twist to 'Old School' Program Fills Manufacturing Engineering Talent Pool


Fives Cincinnati’s modern approach to proven apprenticeship program is producing the company’s next generation of manufacturing technology workforce.
 Bill Weier


By Bill Weier
Human Resource Manager
Fives Cincinnati

HEBRON, Ky, APRIL 2014 – The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2012 indicated the average manufacturing worker’s age was 50, and half of the workforce was 10 to 15 years away from retirement. How will we support high-tech manufacturing as the baby boomers leave the workforce? Most U.S. manufacturers are feeling the impact of the talent shortage in our industry, so this is a question many of us in human resources face. The method that is working well for Fives Machining Systems, Inc. is a new twist on a tried-and-true approach to passing experience and knowledge to the next generation – the apprenticeship. Apprenticeships have been part of our company since its beginnings as Cincinnati Milacron in the late 1800’s and the most recent iteration of the program was established in 2007, when the company was still MAG. The current program supports effective succession planning to replace exiting skill sets, while at the same time raising the bar by challenging apprentice candidates to earn a higher education degree, while they learn on the job.

Through a partnership with Gateway Community and Technical College in Florence, KY, our apprentices complete a rigorous academic program and “earn as they learn” through an intense 8,000-hour on-the-job-training rotation. A unique aspect of the program is that we participated in the development of the curriculum, which includes more lab hours than programs offered by typical four-year schools. The program is now in its seventh year and we’ve graduated six apprentices from the program, with eight others currently enrolled. The results are far beyond our expectations in terms of both numbers and the quality of the graduated employees. We’ve learned that a common trait among our apprentices is that they are driven to succeed, and this program provides them an opportunity to back up their ambition with technical skills and work ethic and, at the same time, bring vitality to the workplace that is often contagious to all employees.

Today’s high tech manufacturing requires a strong skill set underpinned by a solid grasp of mathematics, so we work with high school guidance counselors to identify potential apprentice candidates, as well as promote the program to current college students and displaced workers. We use extensive outreach pathways to secure the best and brightest candidates available, including job fairs and recruitment of military personnel whose enlistments are ending. We have found that many veterans received technical training while in the service and they typically have desirable traits such as dependability, accountability and maturity.

Five’s recent group of apprentices was selected from a pool of nearly 60 applicants, and the program is designed to accommodate a maximum of 10 apprentices at any given time. The resumé review process involves assessing academic performance as well as personal skills and the ability to effectively work in a team environment. 

Along with earning an Associate Degree as either an Electrical Technician or in Manufacturing Engineering Technology, the apprentices receive several certifications as they reach milestones within the program including the Exploratory Machining Certificate, the Integrated Manufacturing Technologies Certificate, and the Fundamentals of Mechatronics Certificate. Apprentices are also eligible for membership in the National Technical Honor Society based on maintaining a high level of performance. Upon graduation the apprentice/employee transitions to a role within our organization with comprehensive knowledge and experience in high tech manufacturing, but without the burden of student loans. Of our six graduated apprentices, five are continuing their education by earning Bachelor Degrees through the company’s tuition assistance benefit program.

As job creation continues to be a hot topic in the U.S., this program has gained national attention through the NBC Nightly News segment “America at the Crossroads,” hosted by Tom Brokaw, as well as in articles in trade magazines and newspapers. This further demonstrates the importance developing U.S.-based manufacturing technology jobs.

Our investment in the program is approximately $200,000 per candidate, demonstrating that Fives Cincinnati is committed to investing in the development of best-in-class service, products and manufacturing solutions for our global customer base. Our Apprenticeship Program not only provides a means to promote manufacturing as a career choice for highly motivated individuals, it also ensures that some of the “best and brightest” young manufacturing minds in the U.S. are working to bring the latest machine tool and manufacturing technologies in the name of Fives.

About Fives

Fives is an industrial engineering Group with a heritage of over 200 years of engineering excellence and expertise. Fives provides process equipment, production lines and turnkey plants for the biggest global players in the aluminum, steel, glass, automotive, logistics, cement and energy sector in both developing and developed countries.

In all these sectors, Fives designs and manufactures equipment and innovative solutions, which better anticipate and meet the needs of its customers in terms of performance, quality, safety and respect for the environment.

In 2013, Fives is forecasted to achieve a turnover of 2 billion Euros and expected to have more than 7,500 employees in over thirty countries.

Published Date : 5/19/2014

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