On August 18th, the Industrial Maintenance Training Center of Pennsylvania (PA) recognized nine schools spread across the Commonwealth for their ability to provide current and prospective workers with the skills needed to qualify for the Advanced Manufacturing / Integrated Systems Technology (AM/IST) certificate. The skills required for this certificate are recognized in the US Department of Labor's Mechatronics Competency Model. This model is supported by PMMI and is the basis of the skills tested for in PMMI's first three mechatronics certificates.
School administrators, representing the schools that qualified on the basis of a detailed audit, were recognized at a reception held in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Association of Workforce Investment Boards (WIB). All 23 of Pennsylvania's WIB's have signed on to the importance of teaching multi-skilled advanced industrial maintenance programs to support the mechatronic systems critical to world class manufacturing. Certificates were presented by state and regional officials at this statewide conference to emphasize the importance of these education programs to the commonwealth's advanced manufacturing infrastructure.
Multi-skilled industrial maintenance technicians are in short supply. A study completed earlier this year for the PA Governor's office indicated that over the next ten years, the availability of trained personnel will fall short by a factor of 40 to 1 unless educational programs are ramped up considerably. One company recently re-sited a planned steel making operation and its 300+ jobs for lack of skilled maintenance technicians in the region. A skilled maintenance technician can easily support 10 manufacturing jobs and a manufacturing job is said to have similar leverage in the supply chain. Packagers and packaging machinery builders will be competing with all advanced manufacturing industries for scarce resources.
To address these issues, PMMI has teamed up with PA's Industrial Maintenance Training Center and its governance board, the Mid-Atlantic Mechatronics Advisory Council, to provide much needed credentials to identify individuals who meet certain skill requirements. At a minimum, an entry level multi-skilled maintenance technician should be able to pass PMMI's tests for Introduction to Mechanical Components, Introduction to Industrial Electricity, and Introduction to PLC's.
Schools, employers and government are of a like mind that transportable industry credentials are essential. In fact, government will not permit secondary school programs to be taught unless such credentials are available. Without these credentials, we are like a dog chasing its tail.
PMMI has stepped up to make sure that credentials are available to facilitate the establishment of these education programs and to help employers gauge the capabilities of current or prospective employees. Nine high schools, community colleges and private colleges across Pennsylvania are now certified to teach all or parts of these programs. More will follow, both in PA and elsewhere, until we establish a nationwide capability with a workforce pipeline to support world-class mechatronic-enabled manufacturing.