"We always need to keep educating our workforce, whether they are new employees or have been in the workforce for years," says Bill Horwarth, president, MAG Global Services.

Machine tool manufacturer MAG Industrial Automation Systems has a comprehensive talent management program to make that happen, including engineering cooperatives, internships, leadership programs and more.

The skilled trades are the company's area of greatest concern, however. Like ArcelorMittal, MAG recognized several years ago the toll retirements eventually would take on its skilled production workforce, the "strong majority" of which are in the 55 to 65 age range.

"The reality is if you don't do something proactively, you're [eventually] not going to be able to produce your product," Horwarth notes. "The reason we did something about it is because we realized it would affect our future."

MAG addressed reality by reintroducing the apprenticeship, which once had been commonplace among machine tool makers. Indeed, one of the several machine-tool-making companies that came to comprise MAG is the former Cincinnati Milacron, which at one time had its own internal training school and educators for apprentices.

MAG's reinvigorated apprenticeship program mirrors some aspects of the training programs employed by Permac and ArcelorMittal. For example, the company now partners with a local educational institute, Gateway Community and Technical College, a two-year school that is part of Kentucky's community college system. In fact, MAG donated one of its products to the school so educators can train students on the manufacturer's own equipment. MAG also helped develop the curriculum.

However, the program differs in that students in MAG's apprenticeship program are full-time employees of the company, potentially enrolled in the program directly out of high school, but not necessarily. They receive wages and full benefits, and the company pays for their education. Because they work full time, participants typically need four years to complete their associate's degree.