Industry Market Trends

Friday Focus: How Video Training Connects Veterans to Advanced Manufacturing

Aug 09, 2013

Strategies to connect veterans to advanced manufacturing jobs are moving beyond job postings and meet-and-greet hiring events. The newest emerging efforts include specialized technology training to help solve two key challenges at a fast pace: reintegrating thousands of ex-servicemen and women into civilian life and filling the shortage of high-skilled jobs across the industry.

As previously reported in IMT Career Journal, an estimated 4,000 U.S. troops are expected to be pulled from Afghanistan by early 2014. At the same time, 1.9 million veterans remain unemployed, according to the Institute for Veterans and Military Families. One solution to reverse the employment situation can be found in the manufacturing industry.

As advanced manufacturing grows, with processes such as R&D, computer-aided design (CAD), and computer-aided machining (CAM), for instance, hiring managers are having difficulty finding the workers that can accelerate their company's competitive edge, as noted this May by Jonas Prising, president of ManpowerGroup. Eighty-two percent of manufacturers claim that they cannot find adequate people for their high-skilled production.

Many veterans, armed with technical aptitude and skill sets, are important assets to the workforce for various reasons - from leadership qualities to critical thinking skills. Connecting them to manufacturing industry jobs have included hiring events, such as Hiring Our Heroes, as well as newer pilot-program initiatives, such as a two-week crash course in manufacturing that is currently in progress at East Carolina University, located in Greenville, N.C.

Using telepresence training is another way, one through which a Minnesota consortium is recruiting top military talent and other displaced workers.

Advanced Manufacturing Training With Video Technology   

Veterans in Minnesota and Wisconsin can now get the preparation they need for high-wage, high-skilled manufacturing jobs in their local areas with telepresence-based training. The implementation of this technology is part of a larger effort by the Minnesota Consortium group, which includes Central Lakes College of Staples and Brainerd, Pine Technical College of Pine City, St. Cloud Technical and Community College, and members of the 360 Manufacturing and Applied Engineering Center of Excellence at Bemidji State University and several schools in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, along with 15 industry partners and community and manufacturing organizations.

Enabled by a $13.1 million grant funded by the federal Department of Labor's TAACCCT (Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training) program, the Minnesota consortium developed the Regional Advanced Manufacturing Re-Training (RAMR) program, with a focus on video technology to train and prepare veterans, dislocated workers, and Trade Adjustment Assistant workers (TAA), as well as the newest college graduates, for industry.

"There's a great need in Minnesota and really across the nation for [workers with] advanced skills in order to keep highly-skilled manufacturing jobs in this country," said Marlene Mixa, the director of Strategic Grant Initiatives, who noted that the state's high-demand jobs require fast placement rates.

"We are also offering instructor-based training as part of the grant," she told IMT Career Journal. "[But] especially in the rural areas, travel and travel expenses can be a huge barrier to training."

"Having this mediated telepresence equipment allows us to have live, interactive sessions with industry experts from the companies, perhaps talking to students or the college faculty or faculty in other locations, and teaching the courses directly to people at work sites," Mixa added, noting that the use of such visual communications eliminates cost and time for smaller employers, which might not be able to do training otherwise.

"This is a unique combination of schools and manufacturers working together in this way for the first time," Michael Werch, the president and CEO of the telecommunications supplier Video Guidance, told IMT Career Journal. "With this high-end visual communication, one school can connect to five or 10 locations to learn at the same time," he said, adding that the telecommunications service allows participants to save lessons and review them at a later date.

According to Mixa, this method provides a way for the consortium to get workers, including veterans, into the workforce more quickly and enables companies to connect with each other for expert consultation. It also streamlines the process to train the one or two workers who need specialized skills the most, as opposed to training large groups.

Mixa also notes that the consortium is currently looking to give education credits for prior learning for advanced placement into the RAMR program. "Veterans and other dislocated workers obviously have a lot of knowledge and experience already, so it doesn't make sense for them to start at the beginning of a program," she explained.

The consortium is also working with veteran assistance departments from the state, as well as veterans organizations at each of the college campuses to make sure that they maximize their communications to recruit veterans. It is coordinating with local workforce centers across Minnesota to help more veterans get back to work.

For more coverage on the Minnesota consortium, stay tuned to IMT Career Journal.