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Six Training and Development Practices to Strengthen the Workforce

As new technology and opportunities inundate the world of manufacturing, one of the biggest challenges the industry faces is the widening gap between the jobs that need to be filled and the talent pool skilled enough to be capable of filling them. A 2018 study by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute reveals that this skills gap may leave an estimated 2.4 million positions unfilled by 2028, with a potential economic impact of $2.5 trillion.

Implementing training and development is one approach manufacturers are taking to solve the employment challenge. This has been is a new area of focus at many manufacturing companies, but UMC has incorporated learning and development initiatives into its core operating principles since its beginning in the 1960s. For example, UMC was one of the first within the industry to add continuing education benefits by encouraging employees to further their education and offer tuition reimbursement.

Today, UMC continues to lead the industry in the area of training and development with a longstanding and growing apprenticeship program, and a proactive approach to bringing advanced training and education to both prospective and current employees.   

Other organizations—including the state of Minnesota, as it developed its Dual-Training Pipeline Grant Program—have looked to UMC for ideas and examples of practices that effectively engage, empower, and advance manufacturing employees.    

Here are six areas of focus we are using to build out a leading training and development program that advances UMC, our employees, and manufacturing as a whole.

1. Make Opportunities Visible

At the top of the pipeline for talent is awareness. It’s essential that we expose people to the opportunities and options that are available within UMC and the manufacturing industry. UMC spends time partnering with area schools to bring manufacturing expertise, supplies, and equipment into the classroom, and to bring students onsite for tours, job shadows, apprenticeships, and internships.

Our programs are structured to provide exposure to every area of our business, from milling and machining to programming and finishing. We rotate apprentices through departments to develop a broad range of skills and abilities. We want people to gain exposure and confidence in as many areas as possible, so they can see the various paths that are available to them.

2. Create Space for Learning

People need convenient and functional space to learn. In addition to a dedicated training room equipped with web conferencing technology for distance learning, UMC also has space for on-site presentations and individual online learning. There is also a skills lab where employees can use actual equipment to practice, measure, and test their knowledge in a safe, hands-on setting. The allocated space for learning reinforces the message that development and growth are an integral part of our business.

3. Reinforce Mentorship

Effective mentorship is essential for employee development. UMC fosters mentorship at every level of the organization with the expectation to mentor and be mentored, and by creating a culture that values growth and teamwork. Mentors are equipped with training and supported in their mentorship roles by the HR and training and development teams, as well as their managers and other mentors in the company. Everyone who comes through the organization is exposed to some level of mentorship and understands that experience and how valuable it is.

4. Make Information Accessible

Employees need to be empowered with the information they need to be successful. With so many different departments operating with their own work instructions, rules, and regulations, a system of information that can be easily accessed and updated is essential. UMC excels at onboarding new employees and organizing and updating documents in our project lifecycle management (PLM) software. From the day-one HR policies to the specific work instructions categorized by role, everything is written and organized in a transparent and trackable way.

We also bring in outside training programs and give employees access to courses and programs offered through various schools and training partners. Our goal is to remove any barriers between people and the information they need to excel within UMC and the manufacturing industry.  

5. Incentivize Learning

If we want people to invest in furthering their skills, we can encourage that by providing financial support and incentives. We offer a tuition reimbursement program plus support professional development, and we’re continually assessing and re-evaluating our educational reimbursement program and policies. We want to allow people with different experiences and skills to be compensated as they pursue their next level of success.

6. Invest for the Long Term

None of these approaches is a quick fix. We need continuous organizational and systemic improvements to build a sustainable pipeline of manufacturing talent. As our industry advances and the labor market continues to evolve, a focused commitment to training and development is essential. We don’t have all the answers, but continuing to invest, set goals, and measure our impact will keep us moving forward.

The strategy is simple: when our people grow, our company grows. We are always looking for people who are ready to put their best foot forward. Are you ready to join the UMC team?