By Daniel Walker
INDEPENDENCE, OHIO – The Industrial Fasteners Institute (IFI) has announced it is starting the development of a groundbreaking new apprenticeship program for machine operators that will be recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor. This program aims to address the pressing issue of workforce shortage in the fastener manufacturing industry. With an increasing number of skilled machine operators retiring each year, the need to transfer their knowledge and expertise to the next generation has become critical.
IFI has partnered on the development of the apprenticeship program with the Marshall University Advanced Manufacturing Center (MAMC), located in West Virginia. Marshall’s MAMC is well versed in the development of apprenticeship programs, having successfully written and implemented multiple such programs in use across the country today.
“The shortage of workers in fastener manufacturing will not resolve on its own. With each passing year, our industry continues to lose skilled machine operators to retirement, and that knowledge must be passed on to the next generation,” stated Dan Walker, Managing Director of IFI. “IFI and its members have decided to roll up our sleeves and create an apprenticeship program for our industry to help solve this ongoing problem.”
Under the leadership of IFI’s Chairman, Gene Simpson of Semblex Corporation, the development of this program represents a significant collaborative effort. Simpson stated, “An initiative as important as this needs to be driven by a group like the IFI. Many companies have their own programs that work well, but these are individual efforts with a heavy burden and mixed results. By leveraging IFI’s collective knowledge and resources with the help of Marshall University’s Advanced Manufacturing Center (MAMC) the goal is to create a program that will create consistency and results for use by the entire industry.”
MAMC’s Apprenticeship Works, the National Advanced Manufacturing Apprenticeship Partnership (www.mfg.marshall.edu/apprenticeships), assists companies nationwide in developing and implementing DOL Registered Apprenticeships in more than 20 occupations. Apprenticeship Works is funded entirely through a $4.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor – Employment & Training Administration.
“We are honored that IFI has chosen our proven apprenticeship model to help develop a pipeline of skilled talent for this important manufacturing sector,” said Derek Scarbro, MAMC’s interim director. “The fastener industry is a critical link in the supply chains of key sectors, from automotive and aerospace to defense. Creating a highly qualified workforce is imperative to strengthening American manufacturing.”
Unlike IFI’s current member training program, which primarily consists of webinars and day-long instructor-led training, the new apprenticeship program will provide a comprehensive framework for training machine operators. It will involve a combination of hands-on training in a company’s own facility, utilizing their equipment and personnel as mentors for the apprentices. The program will also incorporate online self-paced learning modules through a partnership with the IFI and the Workforge online training system.
Apprenticeship programs offer a structured learning experience with multiple levels of achievement and wage progression. Participants are paid to learn and gain hands-on experience in a production environment under the guidance of experienced operators. Manufacturers will benefit from the ability to hire individuals without prior manufacturing experience and train them under a recognized and structured learning program. This will enhance their competency in operating fastener manufacturing equipment. For apprentices, they will acquire a transferable skill recognized throughout the industry, opening doors to employment opportunities while offering job security, increasing levels of responsibility, and competitive wages.
The development of the apprenticeship program is already underway, with IFI forming a dedicated committee comprising experienced plant personnel and machinery suppliers. The committee is actively working towards completing the program within the next 12-18 months, making it available for manufacturers to utilize.
Companies looking to support this industry-wide initiative and capitalize on the benefits of membership in IFI are encouraged to join the effort. By becoming IFI members, companies gain access to valuable resources and contribute to the future of the fastener manufacturing industry.
June 30, 2023