Innovative Employer-focused Training Helps SF Pathway Meet Need for More Welders
LEWISTON, ME - When Wayne Sanford and his five classmates complete their final hours of training today and receive graduation certificates from Maine Department of Labor Commissioner Jeanne Paquette, they will become the first group to complete an innovative approach to job training that offers immediate employment upon graduation. On Monday the students will begin utilizing their newly acquired skills as welders for Lewiston-based Senior Flexonics Pathway, Inc., one of the many manufacturers in Maine facing a shortage of skilled workers.
“This initiative demonstrates how the state can partner with businesses to support growth,” said Governor Paul LePage. “By customizing our training to meet the company’s needs, we can ensure that training dollars are well used. It’s training for a purpose, training to meet a need and training for a job.”
“This innovative approach to job training has been terrific for our company. Working with the CareerCenter, Western Maine Community Action and the New England School of Metalwork, we were able to develop a curriculum that meets our shop-floor needs, so that trainees have the skills required to immediately become productive employees,” said Don Mondor, Manufacturing Manager of the SF Pathway facility in Lewiston.
The employer-focused training approach used in the class was pioneered by the Maine Manufacturing Extension Partnership (Maine MEP) and has been adopted by the Maine Department of Labor’s Bureau of Employment Services in what it hopes will be a model for other employers. The approach brings together an array of training resources and partners to help an employer recruit and train prospective employees for hard-to-fill positions. The training is designed around the skill sets required by the employer and offers the trainees the advantage of knowing that they will graduate from the program with the qualifications needed for immediate employment.
Labor Commissioner Paquette emphasized the central role played by the Maine Career Centers in serving both employers and unemployed workers.
“This initiative targets two of Maine’s most persistent labor challenges. It addresses the problem faced by companies experiencing a shortage of skilled workers by developing customized training that is then offered to unemployed or underemployed workers looking for new career opportunities. The Maine Career Centers play a central role, first, by partnering with companies looking to expand their workforce and then by screening prospective applicants, so that trainees in the program have an interest and willingness to learn the new skills required by the employer,” said Commissioner Paquette.
In Lewiston managers from SF Pathway met with Maine MEP Project Manager Wayne Messer and Career Center Manager Mary LaFontaine to discuss the need for additional welders. The team brought in the New England School of Metalwork to help develop and deliver the curriculum. Funding for the training was provided by Western Maine Community Action and the Maine Department of Labor with Support from the Maine Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Family Independence and Central/Western Maine Workforce Investment Board Led by Warren Swan, the welding director for the New England School of Metalwork, the team developed a 360-hour training program that would meet the needs of SF Pathway. The training consisted of hands-on welding instruction combined with skills such as blueprint reading. Upon completion of the program, students are encouraged to apply for American Welding Society (AWS) certification.
Having customized the curriculum, the Lewiston CareerCenter led the effort to recruit job applicants. All applicants were extensively screened and interviewed, first by the CareerCenter and then by the employer. This led to the selection of eight highly motivated applicants (six trainees and two alternates) who were given a tour of the SF Pathway facility and offered a chance to learn about the job requirements and opportunities for career advancement.
The training commenced in April and will conclude with the graduation ceremony on June 27 at the Pathways facility in Lewiston. Trainees who successfully complete SF Pathway’s qualification test will be offered employment with the company. The training completion rate for this first class of welders is 100 percent.
"I’m having a great time in this class and I wish I’d pursued welding earlier,” said Sanford. “We have great instructors who allow us to work at our own pace. All of the students get along great and everyone is improving their technique daily. I felt that I was really well prepared for the AWS fluxcore test that I took a couple of weeks ago – and passed!"
Maine MEP President Muriel Mosher applauded the Maine CareerCenter system for supporting the innovative employer-focused approach to workforce training.
“Many Maine manufacturers have found it challenging to recruit welders and other skilled workforce positions. This initiative supported by MDOL builds on a demonstration project that Maine MEP pilot tested several years ago and reaffirms the value of an employer-focused approach. For many of Maine’s high tech manufacturers, a cookie-cutter approach to training is not efficient. This collaborative model, which offers customized training to job applicants, shows that we can spur job growth by giving companies the skilled workers they need,” Mosher stated.
About Maine MEP
The Maine MEP is a program of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development and an affiliate of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) under the U.S. Department of Commerce. The national MEP system is a network of manufacturing extension centers that provide business and technical assistance to smaller manufacturers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Through MEP, manufacturers have access to more than 2,000 manufacturing and business professionals whose job is to help firms make changes that lead to greater productivity, increased profits and enhanced global competitiveness. For information on the Maine MEP program, please visit www.mainemep.org, or phone 1-800-MEP-4MFG.