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Workforce Investing In Human Capital:


Developing the Next Generation of Skilled Manufacturing Technicians


Surveys continue to cite the lack of qualified labor as a significant hur- dle to growth for many manufactur- ers. Tus more manufacturers in the automotive industry—and indeed manufacturers in all segments—are looking into partnerships to train highly skilled machine tool techni- cians. Te challenge seems to lie in changing the perceptions that make young adults reluctant to consider a career in manufacturing. Advanced manufacturing is no longer the smokestacks and assembly lines the younger generation oſten envisions it to be. EMAG LLC (Farmington Hills, MI) recognizes the need to


Matthew Combs


address this issue in its own shop. “We definitely notice the av- erage age of our top talent increasing, and as many companies strive to retain their best employees we saw the opportunity to foster new talent in-house,” stated Peter Loetzner, CEO of the machine tool maker’s US operations. To encourage growth in Michigan’s mechatronics manufacturing industry and ensure an advanced workforce to close the sector’s skills gap, EMAG launched an apprentice training program with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Oakland Community College and Henry Ford College. Te program offers high school graduates a career in machine mechatronics, a disci- pline incorporating electrical, electronic and mechanical stud- ies, providing all graduates an Advanced Associate’s Degree. “Not only are we training these students with the skills they


need to succeed in the manufacturing world, but also offer- ing them the platform to learn from the top talent we already have, making sure this essential knowledge of both our ma- chines and the industry in general is passed along organically,” said Loetzner. Over the course of three years the students alternate educa-


tional semesters at their colleges with practical learning on the shop floor. “Tis program is the first of its kind in the US in the way that it will develop a talent pipeline for the manufac- turing industry,” said Mike Kjorli, EMAG USA manufacturing manager and designated mentor to the company’s apprentices. “Te participating colleges asked companies for their input to develop a real-world curriculum, making it truly tailored to the needs of the industry,” Kjorli added. Tis approach is


88 Motorized Vehicle Manufacturing Rebekka Neumann


gaining ground in many industries as companies begin to recognize the gap between the education system and working world, where young adults lacking the specific skills and experience oſten required to even secure an interview, much less contribute to the workplace imme- diately, continue to find it difficult to break into the workplace. Aiming to create a system for these students to develop and flourish, EMAG


provides all tuition and student fees as well as supplies. Te combined classroom and work curriculum provides students with both paid employment during their studies and a guaran- teed position with the company upon graduation. Rebekka Neumann, who was hired in 2013 by EMAG as an


Apprentice Mechatronics Technician, stated, “Tis program takes a different approach. You apply everything you learn at your job and then graduate with a degree, a job and no student loan debt.” Neumann sees the program as a launching pad to establish herself in the industry. She was recently named to Manufacturing Engineering’s “30 Under 30” list that recog- nizes future leaders of manufacturing. Together with Matthew Combs, who received an honorable mention on the same list, Neumann recently began her second year in the program and will get the opportunity to mentor the next set of students joining the apprenticeship program when they arrive on the shop floor in January 2015. Young people who become attracted to manufacturing


through this offer of high-tech careers will produce high- quality products and add value to our economy, said Kjorli. Te program “will prepare them for many opportunities in the mechatronics field, not only at EMAG, but in the whole industry,” he noted. Added Loetzner, “I have always believed it is necessary that


we help educate and train the next generation of engineering, operator and maintenance personnel. Nothing happens in in- dustry if the machines are not working properly. We at EMAG are very proud to have launched this important program.”


Edited by Yearbook Editor James D. Sawyer from material provided by EMAG LLC.


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