Arizona’s Got Talent –
or Does It?

Hiring talent is not a problem for Honeywell, according to Owens. The labor coming out of high schools and community colleges have good foundational skills, he says, and the company provides extensive on-the-job training to develop advanced skills.

A talent pool is an issue, however, for companies like Pivot Manufacturing and Nichols Precision, two companies that contribute to the supply chain for giants like Honeywell.

So where is the work force? The crisis the industry is trying to deal with is too few qualified people in the employment pool. While Smith, at TASER, relates he has “good luck recruiting mechanical engineering and manufacturing folk here in the Valley,” and Crandell says VMI finds there is a good pool for non-specific jobs, the skills gap is enough of a widespread issue that organizations concerned with economic development have initiated a specific response: the Arizona Manufacturing Partnership. Fierros, who co-chairs the AMP, describes it as a statewide, industry-led initiative that aligns industry needs with education articulation to create and sustain a qualified work force for manufacturing. Its three main goals are to promote a world-class image of manufacturing to schools, parents, teachers and elected officials; see that the curriculum being taught is actually what industry needs; and act as a liaison between education and industry. 

“Industry is taking a more aggressive approach to what they want in terms of an educated work force,” says the ACA’s Boxer. She notes that the focus has been on higher education, but “there are many pathways to be successful and we have ignored ones that led to direct hire rather than a four-year engineering degree.”

Educating a Work Force

According to Fierros, what is sorely needed is certification-level training that teaches to national standards. “Every discipline has its own society, and from these organizations stem the minimum requirements” for certification of the specific expertise, he says, noting certification helps employers in hiring. “Most of us in the machining world understand and appreciate credentials from the National Institute for Metalworking Skills, so if a student graduates from any school with a NIMS certification, he can go anywhere and any business would know what that certification means.” Fierros sees AMP’s role as making clear what end result industry is seeking, and “we’ll let education coordinate among themselves to come up with roads to get us to the certification.”

AMP is focusing first on community colleges, then grades K-12, and lastly on universities. Community colleges, Fierros reports, “are open to the concept and the conversation. The issue is to translate that willingness to action.”

Source: InBusiness Greater Phoenix Magazine, June 2014