Chattahoochee Tech addresses manufacturing skills gap

About 5 percent of U.S. manufacturing jobs (up to 600,000) go unfilled because employers can’t find candidates with the required skills, according to a 2011 survey by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute. Sixty-seven percent of 1,100 manufacturers claimed a moderate-to-severe shortage of qualified workers.

Chattahoochee Technical College wants to change that by increasing the skills of Georgia workers.

In November, Chattahoochee Tech became the first Georgia technical college to offer the Certified Production Technician Training program. The certification is sponsored by the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council to teach the core competencies needed by higher-skilled production workers in all manufacturing areas.

“It’s a four-week, 160-hour program that will give existing manufacturing workers essential skills to move up to lead operator or junior supervisor,” said James Bulman, instructor for the certified production technician program at Chattahoochee Tech. “It will also give manufacturing job applicants an edge in the market. The certification will tell companies that they are better prepared for entry-level jobs.”

The program is divided into four modules: safety; quality practices and measurement; manufacturing processes and production; and maintenance awareness.

“The safety module is more in-depth than the usual OSHA safety training,” Bulman said. It includes cross-functional employability skills such as communications, teamwork, customer awareness, workplace conduct and training ability.

The manufacturing processes and production module teaches production methods used for different types of products.

At the end of each module, students are tested and can earn a certificate. Those who attain all four certificates earn the production training certification.

“These are general skills that apply to any type of manufacturing. The students don’t need prior experience. The program will teach them a bit about the entire manufacturing process,” Bulman said.

Someone with good hand/eye coordination who enjoys working with hand tools should do well in the training, he said. “There’s a lot of e-learning, which is very interactive, but the program is 30 percent instructor-led.”

At one point during the program, students use tools to set up a production line and build a small product.

“Seeing a product go out the door and knowing that you were responsible for making it is one of the rewards of working in manufacturing,” he said.

Classes are at Chattahoochee Tech’s Manufacturing Training Center in Austell. The first cohort is under way, but the college is taking applications for a second class to start in January. The cost is $2,499.

“Trained and certified production technician workers can help this community to be more competitive in attracting high-wage/high-skilled jobs,” said Glenn Rasco, vice president of community and economic development at Chattahoochee Tech.

Applicants must be 18 or older, have a high school diploma or GED, and be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien. Other requirements include a Georgia Work Ready certificate and passing scores in math and English on the TABE (Test for Adult Basic Education) exam.

For information, call 770-528-4551.

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