Since the onset of the pandemic, US manufacturing indexes have reached a 37-year high. Still, manufacturers continue to struggle, not only with skyrocketing material costs and supply chain issues, but with labor shortages. Welders and metal fabricators remain elusive, and the cost of attracting and retaining an employee with welding skills can be significant.
Faced with these challenges, employers are exploring options to boost the productivity of current staff and reduce turnover with targeted, cost-effective employee training.
In other words, if you’d like your workers to have a set of skills, teach them.
For Carmeuse Americas Calcite Operations, teaching new skills has made a difference to their operations. One of the world’s leading manufacturers in limestone and limestone products, Carmeuse hires specialized and general workers for their quarry operations. While they don’t hire welders, welding is on their list of desired skills for any new employee.
“One of our departments does machinist and metal work daily,” human resources leader Erika Comerford explained. “For the other departments, welding is something we’d like them to know how to do.” Quality welds are often needed on the job, and during the winter shutdown, those production employees with welding abilities can turn their attention to maintenance activities.
Training, though, doesn’t come without its pitfalls. Cost is a factor to consider, but for manufacturing, it’s also about speed and timing. “Carmeuse needs welding training that’s thorough and can be completed on our timeline,” Comerford said. “Most importantly, it can be crippling to have six team members out during production time, so we need training that works with our tight schedule.”
Industrial Arts Institute met all Comerford’s requirements, providing essential welding training to her teams in just four days.
Understanding employer needs is part of Industrial Arts Institute’s DNA. IAI’s relationships with local industry inform the curriculum of their 19-week comprehensive welding program and their trademark “employer-based” education model that acclimates students to real world expectations.
“Those same employer expectations figure right into the curriculum of our corporate training programs,” explained Tamara Ward, the school’s operations leader. Their innovative approach allows them to offer intensive stick, MIG, and flux-cored welding training over four eight-hour days.
And the schedule for the Carmeuse team was whatever dates Comerford was able to spare the workers. “We made arrangements to accommodate the training even though we were running our larger program concurrently,” Ward said. This included the addition of Moran Iron Works founder and CEO Tom Moran, who stepped in during that busy time to instruct both classes.
“It means a lot that Industrial Arts Institute is willing to offer us training specific to our needs and at a time that works for our operations,” Comerford added. “And the team was blown away by the chance to learn from Tom Moran. His experience and depth of knowledge added so much value to their experience.”
Six Carmeuse employees completed four days of training in shielded metal arc welding, and another six completed gas metal arc welding and flux cored arc welding training the following week, offered on their 7AM to 3PM schedule onsite at Industrial Arts Institute in Onaway, Michigan.
Comerford applied for a Going Pro Talent Fund grant to pay for the training, a program that Industrial Arts Institute hopes other employers will take advantage of. “The purpose of the Going Pro Talent Fund grant is to support employers’ efforts to train their current workforce,” Ward said. “As employers face mounting challenges sourcing and hiring workers – all workers, not just welders – these funds provide them with additional incentive to take advantage of training programs like ours.”
For Carmeuse, the training has proven to be a good investment. “Do we see an increase in our productivity with this additional welding training? Absolutely!” Comerford said. “We will continue to make this training available to our team members who are interested, and we’re pleased to have Industrial Arts Institute as a partner in helping us grow our welding capabilities.”