In recent years, as the manufacturing industry has been challenged with bridging the skills gap in its workforce, NIMS, the National Institute for Metalworking Skills, has demonstrated the importance of industry-supported standards as a clear pathway to increasing the number of accredited education and training programs at schools around the country that meet today's needs at manufacturing employers.
NIMS has helped increase the number of individuals who are verifiably qualified for careers in manufacturing. In 2013, NIMS awarded 13,888 credentials
for machinists and production technicians. That's a 58.8 percent increase from the number of credentials issued in 2012, which was a record year, as well. In fact, as you can see from the table, the increase in credentials forms the "hockey stick" curve that all business managers want to see in tracking their performance.
"These numbers show that manufacturing employers are increasingly in need of skilled talent, and individuals are seeking to validate their skills and differentiate themselves in the hiring pool through industry-recognized and standards-based credentials," said Jim Wall, executive director of NIMS
. "As manufacturing becomes more complex, technology-driven and innovative companies, workers, and students need to keep up with evolving industry standards and job requirements."
AMT - The Association For Manufacturing Technology has been a supporter of NIMS as an "industry stakeholder" in the program, with a seat on the NIMS board of directors, since 1995. I have been working personally with NIMS since about 2001.
Since 1995, industry stakeholders like AMT, other industry trade associations, and manufacturing companies have invested more than $7.5 million in the NIMS standards program. Together, the stakeholders are working to develop the standards and credentials while continuing to upgrade and maintain them, as the industry moves forward with new innovations in technology.
AMT members are likely aware that the Smartforce Development Committee has been working with the Global Service Committee to update the NIMS standard for Machine Repair Level II & III for Field Service Technicians that AMT originally developed with AMTDA, the American Machine Tool Distributors' Association, in 2001.
AMT members rely on these standards and credentials to assure a continuous flow of qualified candidates who not only are entering their manufacturing plants but entering into careers. Updating standards, updating the curriculum in school programs that teach mechatronics to match employers' needs, and providing an updated exam for candidates who are seeking to be credentialed are the keys to bridging the skills gap for service technicians.
The first level of this standard, Level I: General Industrial Maintenance, is being developed by the Ivy Tech Community College
system in Indiana with the cooperation of manufacturing industry stakeholders.
In July 2013, a technical working group was convened in Chicago to begin updating the standards and drafting a new standards document for Levels II & III. In December, the next phase of the process, Regional Validation, began in earnest, and the second Regional Validation meeting took place this month at the campus of Central Piedmont Community College, in Charlotte, N.C.
The process of Regional Validation requires at least six to 12 company volunteers to participate. This is, after all, an industry-supported standards system that requires a well-defined national accreditation process. NIMS's stakeholders are asking service managers and other subject-matter experts in the field to participate.
Industry standards for worker credentials are an important way to develop the skilled, trained workforce that meets the needs of today's high-tech manufacturing industry. While there is still plenty of work to be done, the work done by NIMS and its partner organizations is a step in the right direction.
Top photo credit: National Institute for Metalworking Skills
Greg Jones is vice president of Smartforce development at AMT - The Association For Manufacturing Technology. For more frequent updates about industry certifications and Smartforce, follow Greg at Twitter, @GregoryAJones. Based in McLean, Va., AMT represents and promotes U.S.-based manufacturing technology and its members - those who design, build, sell, and service the continuously evolving technology that lies at the heart of manufacturing. For more, visit AMT's website at www.amtonline.org.