Building a talent pipeline
Today’s manufacturing industry is struggling to find the skilled talent it needs. Just ask Northeast Ohio manufacturer The Pipe Line Development Co. (PLIDCO®), the world’s leading supplier of pipeline repair and maintenance fittings.
In 2014, the family-run company invested in two new high-tech Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines to support its growing operations. But like many of today’s advanced manufacturers, its leaders struggled to find skilled technicians to operate the machines, or any type of manufacturing technology.
“When we went out to market to look for new candidates, we had a problem identifying people who wanted to work in manufacturing,” says PLIDCO President Kim Smith, who has been with the Westlake, Ohio-based company for 14 years. “They thought manufacturing was a dirty business, or something they didn’t want to do.”
Technology in manufacturing
The CNC machining process uses computers to control machine tools, including robots, lathes, burning machines, mills, routers and grinders. However, many people don’t realize that a career in manufacturing today can involve computers and advanced technology. Smith recognized the technology disconnect after speaking with students who were interested in computers but didn’t understand their use in manufacturing.
“We were hoping that we could get out to both transitioning adults as they are looking for new careers and the next generation as they identify careers and show them the importance of manufacturing. It’s a new type of manufacturing that presents many opportunities for professional growth,” she says.
The Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network (MAGNET) – a regional collaboration of manufacturers, educational institutions, economic organizations and chambers of commerce – connected PLIDCO with Lorain County Community College (LCCC) Business Growth Services as a partner for talent services.
“We were having a hard time finding qualified people, so we thought if we could go out to the schools and work on some kind of partnership where students got introductory training, we could train them to our product specifications, and that would be a perfect partnership,” Smith says.
Representatives from LCCC Business Growth Services, Lorain County Joint Vocational School (LCJVS), Lorain County Growth Partnership (LCGP) and MAGNET sat down with PLIDCO and other area manufacturers to get a feel for which skills and training the businesses needed most. They discovered a clear need for workers trained to use the latest CNC machines who could step in immediately and run them.
“CNC operators are in high demand,” says Dave White, manager of Human Resources, Safety and Training for PLIDCO. “We welcomed entering this partnership to set up the kind of program that could help fill that need.”
A perfect match
After the discussions, LCCC, in partnership with LCJVS, LCGP and MAGNET, designed a series of CNC training courses tailored to the needs described by Northeast Ohio manufacturers. The first group of students enrolled in the Right Skills Now training program at LCCC in January, learning the nuts and bolts of using CNC machines and preparing for careers in manufacturing while concurrently earning college credits.
Although the program has only run a single pilot, the team at PLIDCO already considers it a success. Through Right Skills Now, the company has access to talented individuals with advanced skills critical to supporting its continued innovation and success. PLIDCO hired a student from the first class – Christina Layne – as an intern before offering her a full-time position.
“She had the basic background training, and then she came here and we got to teach her our process,” Smith says. “It’s a great way to interview somebody. She gets to see if she likes PLIDCO, the work environment and our machines, and we get to see if we like the student and if the work ethic is up to our standards. For us, it was a perfect match.”
Layne says she had four job offers after completing the program and chose PLIDCO because “what PLIDCO offers employees, no one can match.”
“Based on how she was doing both on the job and in class, it was a no-brainer to hire her,” White says of Layne.
Considering the results achieved so far, PLIDCO won’t hesitate to partner for future talent development needs, say Smith and White.
“Any academic institution that takes the time to work with employers to find out what they need, that’s a relationship that is worthwhile,” White says.
Contact LCCC Business Growth Services at (440) 366-4300 to learn more about our services for advanced manufacturing or to enroll.