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After nearly two decades of the dominance of the service economy, manufacturers in all industries have a challenge: recruiting and training the next generation of manufacturing employees. TeligentEMS, an EMS provider in Havana, Florida, has been addressing that challenge through collaborative efforts with educational institutions, other businesses and regional support networks.
"There are few skilled workers to hire so we've had to develop options for recruiting, training and retaining workers who are completely new to manufacturing," said Dale Starke, TeligentEMS' director of manufacturing.
Fortunately, Tallahassee has support resources in this area.
"About eight years ago, the president of Tallahassee Community College (TCC) called me and asked me to tell him my problems and how they could help. I was very forthcoming and TCC has been expanding its program to meet our needs ever since. TCC has changed presidents since then, but the interest in supporting the manufacturing sector continues," said Chris Eldred, TeligentEMS' president and CEO.
As a community college, TCC provides multiple educational paths. Students can work toward an Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degree, a credential or simply retrain to acquire new skills.
"Our goal at TCC is to provide programs, credentials and degrees that help students get a job with family-sustaining wages. We are a demand-driven institution and we try to nimbly adjust our programs to support the needs of our region. We have a very strong commitment to workforce training and we listen to the needs expressed by our manufacturing community," said Jim Murdaugh, TCC's president.
The result of that initial dialog and collaboration with other electronics manufacturers in the area was the development of a Production Technician Certification program at Tallahassee Community College that includes IPC J-Std and IPC-A-610 workmanship standards training along with other key skills training.
TCC has recently purchased an SMT line and is now working with the company on a syllabus and courseware for a program that will train SMT production associates in a one-month period. In the interim, they are offering an introductory one-week program.
TCC also has computer-numerically controlled (CNC) machines and has set up a CNC training class. This is beneficial to the EMS provider because its electromechanical assembly operations require some CNC equipment use.
The company's commitment is that they will interview all students who complete TCC's electronics manufacturing-related programs if they choose to apply for a job.
"In terms of career options, manufacturers provide transformational jobs for people who don't necessarily learn well out of a book. And just as we fill a gap by providing career options for people who like to learn and advance by doing, TCC fills a gap by attracting and offering hands-on training to people who are looking for a career with advancement potential that doesn’t require a four-year or even a two-year degree," Eldred added.
Figure 1: TeligentEMS' real-time systems drive a need for computer literacy at all employee levels.
Graduates of the TCC programs are also computer-literate, a skill that has become critical in manufacturing. There is a PC in front of most production associates at this EMS provider. The company has developed a proprietary suite of tools known as Possible-X, which is predominately focused on supporting materials availability and specificity, real-time shop floor control, and documentation control. Possible-X's production dashboard, known as p-Dash was designed to ensure production associates had the information necessary to do their jobs in a user-friendly format. Associates must log in using their ID number. They utilize the system to clock in and out, plus access all documentation related to their jobs, which is typically displayed at workstation monitors. p-Dash also facilitates movement of cross-trained associates among different work areas as demand varies, since documentation access is linked to work order. This ability to keep everyone fully loaded in a facility where different production areas may have varying demand improves efficiency and ensures competitive cost. The system’s login access requirement supports both intellectual property protection and ITAR compliance.
p-Dash also lets associates open support tickets, which text a message to an engineer whenever a production issue arises that the associate needs help with. This helps ensure that issues that could impact product quality are corrected immediately by a team member appropriately trained to address the issue.