Lakeland Community College has created an online tool to help people decide if they would like to pursue a career in manufacturing. The focus is on precision metal parts manufacturing where the largest skills gap currently exists, particularly in production areas such as machining, welding and assembly.
In an effort to increase the number of skilled manufacturing professionals, Lakeland Community College has developed a free online course to help individuals decide if they should make the move into a career in manufacturing. The course was created with funds from a Cleveland Foundation (Fenn) grant.
The online-based course, which is the only one of its kind in the state, was initially conceived to help dislocated and laid-off workers gain skills for jobs in manufacturing such as welding and CNC machining.
“We were seeing 40-something year-olds who had never been to college suddenly displaced from their jobs coming to us asking how we can help them," said Jim Shelley, manager of the Lakeland Men’s Center.
At the other end of the employment spectrum, many manufacturers in Lake County cannot find enough skilled workers to fill open positions.
Between the local manufacturers needing workers, and Lake County residents needing jobs, Shelley said that the idea to connect the two became clear.
The opportunity for the right individuals to join the workforce in the manufacturing sector is ripe. By 2030, it is estimated that more than two-thirds of the current skilled workforce in manufacturing will be retired (Source: National Association of Manufacturers). Alone in Lake County, there are more than 680 manufacturing companies, many of which will also see large numbers of their employees leave the workforce as they head into retirement.
Despite availability of jobs, one of the greatest challenges that manufacturers face is that the industry still remains a mystery. Many people don't know that manufacturing jobs are available or what a job in manufacturing is all about. This is where the college’s free, self-paced online tool comes in to help clarify the field. The 10-module course takes users approximately 10 to 14 hours to complete.
“At the end of the course, you’ll pretty much know whether or not you’d like to go on to learn more about manufacturing,” said Shelley. “We hope this takes a lot of guesswork out of the equation. It’s hard to make a decision about what career path to pursue when you don’t know much about it.”
Although the course covers a broad area of manufacturing, including plastics, electronics, and biotech, it mainly focuses on precision metal parts manufacturing where the largest skills gap exists, particularly in production areas such as CNC machining, welding and assembly.
The aim of the online course is to interest people of all ages, who lean toward a mechanical aptitude, about these available jobs.
Manufacturing positions require the knowledge to run both automated and manual equipment, monitor mechanical settings, inspect finished products, read blueprints and technical drawings, performing setups, and operate presses, just to name a few of the responsibilities.
“The biggest surprise for many people is how today’s advanced manufacturing is high-tech and computerized and hardly resembles what it was the past,” said Shelley.
Collaboration with various schools in Lake County is also in the works to offer the online tool to high school students.
“Because of their age, younger people have some cushion time to explore different jobs and fields. But for someone in mid-life, he or she needs to know if an educational decision will lead to a job that offers a living wage. This tool will help men and women of all ages decide if manufacturing might be the way to go,” said Shelley.
Those who complete the course, which includes a visit to Lakeland’s campus, may be eligible to receive a scholarship to begin taking classes for credit toward a degree or certificate. The scholarship is funded by the Alliance for Working Together (AWT), a Lake County-based nonprofit group that aims to increase the number of manufacturing professionals in the area.
To sign up for the free online course, or for more information, call 440-525-7453.