How Larson Successfully Implements PMA’s METALFORM EDU
No doubt about it, there is a skills gap in U.S. manufacturing. Ironically, the latest advances in manufacturing technologies—artificial intelligence, robotics, automation and the internet of things (IoT)—have been blamed, incorrectly, for taking away jobs.
Actually, according to Deloitte, these advancements are likely to create more jobs than they replace. The reality is that there are job openings in manufacturing, but not enough people with adequate skillsets to fill them. A study performed by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute reveals that “the skills gap may leave an estimated 2.4 million positions unfilled between 2018 and 2028”—the potential economic impact can be as high as $2.5 trillion.
PMA’s METALFORM EDU
We see the impact locally and share the concern. It’s why we’ve been very actively collaborating with Precision Metalforming Association (PMA) to develop a catalogue of online training courses specific to the metalforming industry. Larson Tool’s President, Chuck Cederberg, serves on the educational Committee for PMA and helped lead the exploration into what types of online education platforms were currently on the market that would help the precision metal stamping industry, and which would be the best fit for PMA’s project. Eventually PMA’s education committee decided on an appropriate platform and launched METALFORM EDU in October 2018.
We were thrilled to be one of the companies that piloted the program to help test it out and prepare it for the launch. Even in the pilot phase, we felt the tremendous benefits of this online training program. A primary impact on Larson—in terms of company growth and employee development—is that we are able to bring someone onboard who may have manufacturing experience but needs specific training in areas that METALFORM EDU can provide. This is a game-changer for us and for individuals to increase their knowledge and skills—helping them to advance their careers.
How it Works
Each course is online and runs about 20 to 30 minutes on average. They generally consist of instructional animations with quizzes at the end to gauge a person’s retention and learning. Each company enrolls the person who will be taking the courses. At Larson, it is now required that a new-hire completes whatever training is applicable to their role. Hourly employees complete the courses onsite and are paid for their time. For the course on presses, it increases their knowledge, skills, and abilities about how a press operates. It explains intricacies of what happens when the die presses down and how the material is formed.
The modules are set up so that if a new-hire doesn’t need all of the education, we can pick and choose which portion of the module applies to the employee, based on where they are going to work. For whatever module we choose, we know we are able to offer a good introduction to all of the materials.
The offerings are many—there are hundreds of courses! The courses are not limited to press machines. There are courses that cover entry-level maintenance, press operation, CNC machining and proceed up through pneumatics, electronics, hydraulics, robotics, and so much more.
Decreasing the Learning Curve
We have an active and successful mentoring program at Larson. This helps decrease the learning curve with people as they join the team, cutting down on some of that initial hands-on learning done with a mentor. The courses are very structured, ensuring that everyone gets the same education. Over time in the workplace, information can be siloed, and while legacy learning is invaluable to the deep skillset we actively use in our daily operations, the consistent, equitable, and constantly updated information offered in the courses, helps keep everyone on the same page.
Path to the Future
As an HR professional, these modules help me provide colleagues with a path to the future. They must complete the directed course or courses at the beginning, but beyond that, they can request other courses. They are subject to approval, but we encourage people to build their skillsets. Their preferences offer us insights to their interests and ambitions in general and we can collaborate with them to foster their career goals. It also works to the company’s advantage in the inverse: if a company upgrades equipment with new technology, there are courses designed to help them offer that training to their employees.
The response has been very good for all stakeholders. We recently re-hired a former employee and he took the course as a refresher. Because the METALFORM EDU content is constantly updated, we were confident he was able to walk in even more knowledgeable than when he left. And we’re glad to have him back.
What all this translates to is that—whether your next project requires progressive die stamping, deep drawing, in-die assembly, or value-added operations—our employees have expert skillsets and Larson is well-equipped to do the job. Find out first-hand, and contact us now to see for yourself.