Manufacturing Skilled Workers

by Erick Ajax on November 11, 2012 · 6 comments

Erick Ajax is the Vice-President of EJ Ajax & Sons, Inc., a manufacturing company that recently hired four veterans thanks to a DOL-funded grant.

If you had to guess what keeps owners of small manufacturing companies like EJ Ajax up at night, you’d probably say, “global competition.” But you’d be wrong. My third-generation precision metal-forming company is holding its own on the world stage, with more than a third of our total production exported to Europe, the Caribbean, China, North Korea and other countries. In fact, when a customer moved production of one of its products to China, it opened a new market that increased demand for our component ten-fold.

Actually, the concern that is on my mind is the need for skilled workers who can maintain the quality and productivity that make our company competitive. They are the workers who literally keep the lights on and drive the economic engine of this country.

These are also the workers who are already in short supply, and who will become even scarcer unless we find innovative approaches to equip them with crucial skills.
Thanks to a grant from the Department of Labor, many companies like mine have been able to find or develop our workers through the M-Powered program at Hennepin Technical College. To date, M-Powered has graduated more than 350 entry-level manufacturing workers, who have received both classroom and paid on-the-job training. This successful partnership of private industry, higher education, state government agencies, non-profits and national associations has worked together to find common ground and make sure that everyone’s needs get met.

My 50-person workforce now includes a dozen M-Powered students and graduates. Many of those who graduated from M-Powered have gone on to earn Class A Journeyworker certifications registered with the Department of Labor.

Through M-Powered, the Department of Labor has not only helped my company to survive and thrive; it has also changed lives by helping people get onto a career ladder and earn a family-sustaining wage. More importantly, the program is helping our veterans secure civilian jobs in high-growth industries. In my company alone, M-Powered has helped four veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We are now in the final stages of the original DOL grant, with the last group of workers in the pipeline. I am hopeful that we will somehow be able to continue M-Powered. Yet, I am happy and proud to say that the basic model has been replicated by two other local colleges, who are now training manufacturing workers.

On behalf of myself and my colleagues at EJ Ajax, thanks to the Department of Labor for your efforts.

Erick Ajax is the  Vice-President of EJ Ajax & Sons, Inc.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 John C Hansen, LEED AP November 11, 2012 at 7:33 pm

I feel justified in speaking out. The community college system has failed the country and yet they are the ones who are being propped up by the handouts from the federal government in ways that only benefit a handful of the industries across the country.

If you look at any one of the web enabled job boards such as CareerBuilder.com, There are very few, if any, that specify these lofty sounding certificates like the Class A Journeyworker certifications registered with the Department of Labor. And the Community College Industry is still awarding Associate of Arts and Associate of Science diplomas to students that will seldom ever see those degrees listed as a prerequisite level of schooling. Most job boards and and job application software do not even acknowledge that an Associate Degree is anything more than “some college.”
We need to clean up the vocabulary and call these places that various industries use to subsidize their job training costs “Trade Schools.” Or maybe “Industry Training Subsidies.” Community colleges could not make it on their own, so they have become addicted to the federal entitlements just as too many segments of society have.

2 Dennis McCann November 12, 2012 at 12:44 am

“Actually, the concern that is on my mind is the need for skilled workers who can maintain the quality and productivity that make our company competitive. They are the workers who literally keep the lights on and drive the economic engine of this country.”

Then we should support not just training for the skilled, but also training and “bridge” programs to create new streams of workers who are new to manufacturing. This is a long term national commitment to skills for all workers, and support services for those attempting to break in to this rewarding “new manufacturing” sector which is more technical, higher productivity and value added oriented.

3 Randy Charleston November 12, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Well Done! Splendid use of M-Powered. I have long been a proponent of tech schooling. It pays huge dividends in targeted training.

4 Christina November 12, 2012 at 6:54 pm

I agree. people should take pride in the company they work for. I think in general you should be proud if you have a job at all in this day in age. seeing job listings finally grow is just so exciting. I often look at job boards Such as granted.com and I am amazed about the amount of jobs they have there. It’s something that our economy needs is more jobs. the middle class is getting taken out to poor and rich. We can only hope for the best.

5 Oyunu November 17, 2012 at 8:49 am

Nice answers in return of this matter with genuine arguments and explaining everything regarding that.

6 Plumbing Repairs Orlando November 20, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Success all boils down to the quality of the workforce that you employ. I am glad to see someone in business being able to recognize that and protect it.

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