As U.S. manufacturing grows, so does the challenge of finding skilled manufacturing workers. Per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. economy added 400,000 manufacturing jobs over the past two years, and manufacturers also face a growing number of worker retirements.
Workforce training, hiring and education are top priorities in Georgia’s efforts to help businesses grow. The best-known Georgia workforce advantage is Quick Start, often named as a top workforce development program since its inception in 1967. Quick Start can model a manufacturing or laboratory setup based on a company’s specific requirements and helps companies find the right talent, reducing the time it takes for a company to begin operations.
What does it take to meet the demand for skilled manufacturing workers?
Flexibility. Quick Start delivers training in classrooms, mobile labs, or directly on the plant floor. In Savannah, Quick Start trained Mitsubishi Power Systems America’s first production welders on the state-of-the-art welding technology required to produce the company’s precision turbines and other power system components. Today, Quick Start operates a 2,000-square-foot plant center where instructors continue to train employees in a custom-designed environment that mirrors the production floor.
Two – or more – to tango. Quick Start works closely with relocating and expanding companies in Georgia to meet their workforce training needs. Quick Start worked with Kia in West Point, Ga., to design and build the Kia Georgia Training Center; tens of thousands of job candidates have gone through its pre-employment process and virtually all of Kia’s 3,000+ current Georgia employees received Quick Start training in robotics, welding, and electronics labs. This training has been so effective that the company’s chairman called it Kia’s workforce training “global benchmark.”
Georgia manufacturers partner with universities and colleges for co-op programs that allow employers to increase their campus presence and observe and groom future employees. Georgia Tech is the U.S.’s largest optional co-op program, with more than 4,000 co-op students.
Innovative thinking. Quick Start and Athens Technical College fitted out a campus building with a series of industry-first training innovations for Caterpillar’s new facility nearby, including a simulated work environment using the same equipment and software and mirroring the plant workflow.
The simulation teaches hands-on skills and Caterpillar production principles. Employees can transition from this continuous improvement team training right to the shop floor and be instantly familiar with all the equipment.
Community Investment. Georgia’s manufacturers think long-term, investing in tomorrow’s workforce. For example, in 2012, Kia pledged $900,000 to strengthen science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in the Troup County School System, the county where Kia is located.
Leadership. The Georgia Retraining Tax Credit leverages the strength of the Technical College System of Georgia, home for Quick Start. Georgia employers can get a 50 percent tax credit of their direct costs of retraining full-time employees. Gov. Nathan Deal has reconvened a business leader task force to review and update new manufacturing industry incentives, and the first “Georgia Competitiveness Initiative” resulted in the passage of aggressive legislation that added to the state’s business incentive portfolio.
BioScience Training Center Coming
Thinking ahead. In 2015, Quick Start will begin to operate the 50,000-square-foot Georgia BioScience Training Center in Stanton Springs, next to the future Baxter International advanced biomanufacturing plant, which will contain a dedicated, custom-designed set of labs, classrooms and hands-on simulations modeled on Baxter’s equipment and processes. Baxter’s executives, engineers and technicians, and Quick Start instructional design professionals are designing the customized training program. Additional space and equipment will serve employees of future biotech companies that invest and create Georgia jobs.
Georgia will continue to be fast, flexible and customized in meeting the needs of manufacturers for skilled employees across the state.
Bill Dobbs is director of aerospace, defense and advanced manufacturing, Georgia Department of Economic Development (www.georgia.org).