Manufacturers want skilled workers now — not in two years. The unemployed want jobs now too. In Minneapolis, Right Skills Now offers a fast track to employment, reports USA Today. Studying at two-year colleges, students spend 16 to 18 weeks learning to run computer numerical controlled (CNC) machines.
MINNEAPOLIS — For decades, Mike Hummon, an unemployed substitute music teacher, was frustrated in his quest to become a school band director.
Now, he good-naturedly endures frustrations of a different sort as a 53-year-old student in an accelerated manufacturing class here. In the classroom one day recently, the tiny hole he punched in a small block of metal was a few ten-thousandths of an inch off center. Hummon accepted he’d have to start over and carve a new block.
“It’s OK,” he says. “It’s just (a matter of ) getting a feel for how to use the machine.”
He isn’t just seeking a new career as an operator of computer-controlled factory machines. Hummon, a dishwasher, two social service workers and several laid-off manufacturing and construction workers are on the front line of a campaign to close a puzzling gap in the labor market that has many U.S. employers struggling to find skilled workers despite the 7.8% jobless rate.
Right Skills Now graduates are “virtually assured a job in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area at a starting wage of about $18 an hour after a six-week paid internship,” reports USA Today.
“We can’t wait two years or four years,” for students to graduate college, says Darlene Miller, CEO of Permac Industries, a contract manufacturer in Burnsville, Minn., who promoted the idea for the program last year when she was unable to find seven CNC operators. “We need people now.”
Students can earn industry certification at Dunwoody College of Technology, which is private, and South Central College, which is public. The vast majority of graduates in the first session found jobs quickly.
Miller, a member of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, worked with the Manufacturing Institute to develop Right Skills Now, which has spread to Nevada and will launch soon in Michigan. Courses in welding, production and other factory skills are also planned.
Eighty percent of manufacturers said they couldn’t find enough skilled workers last year, according to a survey by the institute and Deloitte. Manufacturing has regained only 500,000 of the 2.3 million jobs lost in the recession. But many laid-off workers lack high-tech manufacturing skills.
Employers are working with community colleges to train military veterans for high-tech manufacturing jobs, writes Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of GE.