Fori Automation, a global company located in Shelby Township, Michigan, found some years ago that the average age across their manufacturing workforce was 47. The bulk of their skilled trades employees approaching retirement. Their internal data pointed toward a loss of 22 skilled employees in the coming decade. They knew that the current path wasn’t sustainable and set on a path focusing heavily on bolstering their skilled trades workforce.
When Fori realized the extent of the challenge, Brett Casebolt, Quality Manager at Fori Automation, approached the HR department and worked with the team to devise a new program focusing on apprenticeships and attracting and developing talent. They began working with Macomb Community College, then included local high schools in their network. They also began participating actively at career fairs to promote the training and development opportunities that Fori was offering.
Initial reports from the new apprenticeship training program show a great deal of progress and improvement in attracting talented young people. Their program focuses on training high school graduates within career pathways like CNC Machining, Machine Tool Electrical Technology, Mechatronics, as well as, Pipe Fitter and Tool & Die programs. Apprenticeships provide an accelerated career experience that educates each trainee in disciplines to address Fori Automation’s own skills gap.
“Our apprenticeship program is pretty stellar. We’re going to pay 100% of your child’s associate degree, including book fees, provide them with hands-on experience during the day, and if successful, a career upon completion,” says Bruce Osani, General Manager at Fori Automation. “If parents worry about the need for a four-year degree, we have a solution for that as well. We’ll pay a significant portion of their Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree, if they attend Wayne State University.”
Fori Automation makes a concerted effort to educate parents whenever and wherever they can: at career fairs, manufacturing day events, networking with school administrators and hosting open houses at their facilities to connect and speak directly to parents and students, encouraging them to explore and discover exciting careers in advanced manufacturing.
The National Association of Manufacturers and the Manufacturing Institute notes that only 3 in 10 parents would consider guiding their child toward a career in the field. The SME PRIME school initiative comes into the equation there, directly addressing manufacturing and engineering talent shortages at the local level by working with industry and high schools forming public-private partnerships that inform tailored curriculum. SME PRIME’s success across the country stems from attracting potential manufacturing workers early and correcting misperceptions about modern manufacturing.
“The idea of manufacturing as dark, dirty and smelly is completely inaccurate,” says Brett Casebolt, “At Fori Automation, our employees produce high-tech machines in a world-class, high-tech environment.”
Fori Automation clearly sees the path to addressing their talent shortage. Their apprenticeship program continues to make inroads – but they know that they still need to add 5 or 6 skilled trade positions per year. The company says that their in-house training combined with increased engagement and development from SME PRIME should help them secure their future. There’s still a lot of work ahead, but they see a light at the end of the tunnel.