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Episode 11a: Manufacturing Jobs on the Horizon

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Hear about Opportunities for Individuals with Disabilities and Reflections on Workforce Development from VMA Workforce Development Director, Katherine DeRosear.

Episode 11 Transcript: December 15, 2015

Rick (RS)– Welcome to the VR workforce studio, the disability and employment podcast from the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center. I am your host Rick Sizemore along with the Executive Director of the WWRC Foundation, my co-host Anne Hudlow. Hello Anne

Anne Hudlow (AH) – Hello Rick. It is great to be here to creating hope and a path forward so individuals with disabilities can go to work.

RS– Anne we have an incredible show today. Key leaders from the Virginia Manufactures Association and the Manufacturing Skills Institute.

The episode is from the business industry employer gateway category and we will hear how VMA and MSI have not only developed and in-depth understanding of Virginia’s workforce needs; but, how they have evolved strategies to train and credential the workforce of tomorrow by reducing skills and interest gaps.

VMA and MSI are marshalling every available resource and partner in education, workforce development, manufacturing and government to truly build the workforce of tomorrow through effective collaborations.

AH –We hear every day about new manufacturing facilities coming on line. Executive Order 23 predicts that we’ll need 1.5 million new workers in just in just the next few years to meet the workforce needs. And, in addition to that we are particularly excited about EO 46 emphasizing the positive contributions that individuals with disabilities can make in the workforce. That combined with the Virginia Board of Workforce Development’s promotion of advanced manufacturing and OFCCP503 regulations for disability employment, have certainly convinced me that WWRC is on the right track. Our foundation is a campion for WWRC as it retools to offer “dreamit”, “doit” academies and start up a career pathway that culminates with the manufacturing technology training program.

RS, I caught up with Jim Leech who is heading up WWRC’s MTT program and one of the first steps is training the consumers on the production line.

Jim Leech (JL) Yes that is true Anne. The Materials Handling department at WWRC gives our clients many opportunities to learn what job requirements and skill sets are actually required in Virginia businesses and manufacturing. One of these job exercises is setting up and operating a boxed salt transfer assembly line utilizing a roller conveyor which transports cases containing 24 boxes of salt from one end of the conveyor where the salt is unboxed on a table to the other end where the salt is repacked into empty cases on another table. The clients need to organize themselves at each end to make the job exercise the most efficient it can be, which takes coordination between everyone on the line. We actually do a time study to observe how long it takes to do each small step of the process to see what the actual cost would be to accomplish the task as if it were in a real manufacturing facility. The exercise can run several hours and is real work with each carton of salt weighing 25 pounds, with a production rate of about 30 pounds per hour. They learn a great deal through this exercise.

AH -Students Jim works with had this to say about the training.

Student – We really had to work as a team to understand what the other person is doing in order to keep the product moving on the conveyor.

JL-The conveyer system for the new program is going to be a little higher level, it will have a Variable speed drive, and its purpose will be for us to be able to configure a number of different scenarios.

AH -If you would like to know more about how you can support us as we help WWRC put people to work, you can conduct me by clicking the foundation link right here on the VR Workforce Studio.com website.

RS -Thanks Anne

AH -Thankyou Rick

RS – Always a pleasure Anne

Welcome to another episode of the VR Workforce Studio. We are thrilled and delighted today to have with us today the Director for Development of the Virginia Manufacturers Association who is also the Executive Director of the Manufacturing Skills Institute, Katherine DeRosear. Welcome Katherine

KD– Thank you Rick

RS – Also in the studio today, Vanessa Rastberger who is the Workforce Development Manager for the VMA and the MSI. Welcome Vanessa.

VR –Thank you Rick, Katherine and are very excited about being here today.

RS– The context for the advanced manufacturing conversation and where we are headed in VA is certainly an exciting one.

From Executive Order 23 which is projecting that we need a million and half workers in VA in just the next several years; to the Executive Order 46 on hiring individual with disability to onshore and the stream of communication about new factories coming on line; everything seems to be pointing to the need for workers.

I had the good fortune to part of the 4th annual Workforce Development Symposium at the VA Industry Forum conducted by the VMA this year. And if you are a person in workforce development; you couldn’t help but feel a tremendous sense of optimism about VMA and the environment we find ourselves in as we look to future. Katherine, give us a quick overview of VMA and Manufacturing Skills Institute we will call MSI from here on in the podcast

KD – Thank you Rick, I would be happy to. So the Virginia Manufacturers Association (VMA) is the only statewide industry association, representing more than 5,000 manufacturers in the Commonwealth. This industry collectively employs just over 250,000 individuals in Virginia. The Manufacturing Skills Institute (MSI) is the workforce development affiliate of the VMA. The VMA’s primary mission is to ensure that Virginia remains competitive as it relates to its’ business, climate, its’ regulations and its’ workforce development. So the VMA, three years ago, established the MSI as a way to increase manufacturing capacity of communities throughout all regions of the Commonwealth by increasing access to industry credentials. So as a result of VMA and its MSI, what we have done is create a statewide industry education partnership looking at closing the skills gap as it relates to interests and skills.

RS – Katherine, VMA has been the organization over the past decade that has really focused attention on the need particularly in advanced manufacturing to prepare the workforce. Can you give us a quick overview of how they VMA and MSI have finally wrapped their arms around some objective measures to finally understand the scope of the workforce challenge that is ahead?

KD– So in the last 10 years the VMA has taken the lead in the Commonwealth to understand what the quantity of quality of the workforce necessary to grow and sustain manufacturing. In 2006, the VMA in partnership with Governor Warner conducted the Skill Trades Gap Analysis whereby we took a look at the overall capacity of Virginia’s community colleges to produce the needed workforce for 11 critical occupations. During that study period, we discovered that across all sectors of manufacturing, that there was a need to redefine the manufacturing technician job role. It was formally known as production; but, the manufacturers felt that with the infusion of technology and the change in the equipment, that they needed a new definition to accurately describe the skill sets needed in modern manufacturing. So the VMA, in partnership with industry and Virginia’s Community Colleges set about to establish an industry credential that would help to ensure that people are manufacturing work ready. This credential was designed to sit upon if you will or stack what has now become the National Career Readiness Certificate. In the past five years the VMA, through its Manufacturing Skills Institute has established assessment centers and certified trainers throughout the Commonwealth to help produce the quantity and quality of the workforce necessary so that Virginia remain competitive in the future.

RS – Katherine, would you talk about the skills gap we are facing in the workforce.

KD– Yes Rick, thank you. When we talk about the skills gap in the workforce it is typically around the talent supply and the demand in order to support and sustain manufacturing in the Commonwealth. In Virginia, it’s estimated that over the next ten years, that there will 66,000 openings. Of these openings, an estimated 65% will fall in the middle skill occupations, that is those that will require more than a high school diploma, but less than a four year degree. This equates to an estimated 40,000 skilled workers that are needed, for which we are currently not producing enough completers through our education system. This is reflective as to what is happening nationally as in the next ten years, there is an estimated 3.5 million manufacturing jobs and that 2 million of those jobs will go unfilled. In addition to just the supply and demand as it relates to new openings, we also have to think about retirements in the Commonwealth. It’s estimated that 10-15% of the current workforce that is of 250,000 people in the Commonwealth are retirement eligible. What that means is as the economy gets better; we’re likely to be facing a ‘retirement tsunami’. So it is imperative we are having this conversation today and learning to talk about moving from talk to action.

Steve Sweeney– VR workforce studio…..creating hope and a path forward for employment for people with disabilities

RS Let’s talk about credentialing. With vacancies and anticipating vacancies, in the 10’s of thousands in the coming months and years; what role do you see for credentialing in containing costs and improving the bottom line in business and manufacturing?

KD – That is a fantastic question Rick, and the importance of this question is the role and really the return on value. For years we have used educational attainment as a proxy for skills certification. What we have seen is a mismatch over time that is costing industry millions of dollars. Through the Manufacturing Institute at the National level, recent research was conducted that on average, manufacturers spend $7,500 just qualifying each individual to be hired in manufacturing. This means that a company that hires, on average five individuals per year means spends just over $35,000 dollars. If applied to the overall annual openings in manufacturing (60,000 openings), that would cost Virginia’s manufacturers $505,000,000 to qualify individuals using educational attainment that is traditional terms around high school diplomas, two year and four year degrees. When we apply credentials that is third-party validated industry standards, to the hiring process, it is estimated that employers will reduce their cost by at least 50%. That’s just in the hiring process; there’s also significant data as it relates to on-the-job (OTJ) training and as well as retention. So it’s very important when we talk the conversation at the community level, about the return on value for industry credentials is that it goes directly to the bottom line of our manufacturers and their savings as it relates to hires. And it also makes our partners more efficient in the way in which they produce qualified individuals that are employable. They can actually say that because an individual has achieved this credential we can determine that they have the skills and competencies required for the job in coupling this with educational attainment becomes the ‘magic buckshot’ – if you will – for closing that talent pipeline.

RS– Katherine, I heard you describe the interest gap recently, what is VMA and MSI doing to stimulate interest in advanced manufacturing for the massive jobs that are just round the corner.

KD – Well Rick, as we often here that the first part of the equation when it comes to addressing the talent pipeline for manufactures, is to ensure we have the credentialing programs in place so that people obtain the skills necessary. However, a bigger problem is not having individuals interested in those careers in manufacturing because of a perception gap. Often when we think about manufacturing, we think of manufacturing 15 or 20 years ago that if you had a strong back and strong hands you were certainly employable and could spend 20 years working in a factory. That is not the case any longer today. So what the VMA has done to help reimage careers in manufacturing and help people to better understand what modern manufacturing is – we launched the “Dream It, Do It Virginia” campaign. This marketing campaign focuses on the positive societal impact that manufacturers make in our lives. When you think about it, anything you wear, eat, drive is manufactured. So we have harnessed this reality through our “So, What Do You Do?” campaign. This campaign asks the question: “What is it you do?” and our response is: “We make clean energy. We make the trip smoother. We make life-saving medicine.” This is a very different way of talking about manufacturing is to understand the positive influence it has in our daily lives. To bring this to life, we have created a career information system whereby these images and messages are presented to users and then they can begin the career exploration process. In the career information system, they can develop a career development plan, a resume, if their transitioning military (they can look at how they can crosswalk their military skills and apply it for manufacturing civilian occupations), and we also have Manufacturing Technology Camps. These camps are experiential so that individuals can learn raw materials to finished goods in just 3-and-a-half days, and it’s a fun teen-based environment. So the VMA through extreme “do it Virginia” network has established a set of tools whereby not only can we focus individuals on manufacturing but more broadly STEM occupations to support all advanced technology industries.

RS– Katherine could you describe the programs that are available through MSI, specifically the MS and MT1 credential which we are hearing so much about in workforce development these days.

KD – Absolutely Rick, when you say Manufacturing Specialist we often refer to as the MS; Manufacturing Technician Level One is referred to as MT1. Both of these certifications are offered through the MSI. We are only 1 of only 15 credentialing organizations that have been recognized nationally in the National Skills Certification System. The reason we are included in that system is because we are a stackable credential, we sit on top on the National Career Readiness Certificate and then before any of the specialized industry certifications that are required in industry. Think of it as a manufacturing work ready credential. It consists of 12 critical skill areas that are categorized into three broad buckets- the first is math and measurement, second is manufacturing technology and spatial reasoning, and the third is quality and business acumen. Individuals who achieve certification in all three areas receive the full MT level 1 Certification. For individuals who pass only math and measurement, and manufacturing technology and special reasoning, they receive the Manufacturing Specialist. So consistent with the national framework of stackable credentials within our program we have created two certification opportunities.

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