More and more companies are adopting advanced manufacturing technologies, such as 3-D printing, CNC automation and nanotechnology. But these technologies require specialized skills that many manufacturing workers simply don’t have, leaving a gap between the talent that’s available and the talent that’s necessary.
An Ohio company has taken a unique approach to addressing this problem. Festo, a worldwide leader in automation technology, started a one-of-a-kind apprenticeship program that trains its workers – and workers from other companies – in the skills they need for careers in advanced manufacturing.
“Our mission is to improve companies’ productivity by re-establishing manufacturing as a choice for young talent,” said Carolin McCaffrey, head of Festo Learning Center Midwest. “Students who graduate from this program will have more than just a job. They’ll have a career path in a growing field.”
Based in Germany, Festo launched its U.S. operations in Mason, about 30 miles north of Cincinnati, in 2016 with the grand opening of its Regional Service Center, a state-of-the-art assembly and distribution center. The facility also houses Festo Didactic’s Learning Center Midwest, an educational center that offers a wide range of industrial training programs.
Recognizing the region’s need for highly skilled workers, Festo Didactic, part of the Festo Group, partnered with Sinclair Community College (SCC), TechSolve and five companies – ART Metals Group, Clippard Instruments, Festo Corp., MQ Automation and Nestlé – to create an apprenticeship program in mechatronics, a field that combines mechanical, electrical and computer control skills.
The resulting Mechatronics Apprenticeship Program Partnership (MAP2), introduced in the fall of 2016, is designed to help individuals learn advanced manufacturing skills and earn an associate degree in mechatronics at the same time. MAP2 uses the German apprenticeship model of dual education, where apprentices learn in a classroom but gain experience at work. Students in Festo’s apprentice program take classes at SCC, get hands-on training at Festo’s learning center and receive actual experience at their respective employers.
The combination of an associate degree, skills training and on-the-job experience makes this program so unique. Moreover, the program gives millennials another path to success besides a four-year college degree.
Festo Didactic is piloting the program with its first cohort of 11 students from five companies. In August 2017, it will launch the second group, which is expected to include 20 students from 10 companies.
Skilled laborers are in high demand in Ohio’s advanced manufacturing industry. But innovative programs like Festo’s apprenticeship help ensure that employees have the future skills they need to excel and that companies have the talent they need to grow.