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High-Skill Workers and the Foundry

Doug Kurkul

President Trump recently announced an initiative to improve the effectiveness of federal training programs for today’s changing workforce. These initiatives, which date back to the old Comprehensive Employment and Training Act and Job Training Partnership Act programs, have been periodically updated but seldom seem to deliver the skills that the marketplace needs. The administration is determined to do better this time. The American Foundry Society, which has been advocating for several vocational education policy improvements, applauds the administration on the steps that are being taken.

The president also called on companies to commit to upgrading the skill-level of their own workforces. In 2017, AFS conducted a workforce survey, and we attempted to measure how much training was occurring in foundries. Each respondent defined “training” as they saw fit.

The survey showed that the commitment to training differs widely. Some foundries devote more than 3% of payroll to training. Many others spend less than 1%.

Surprisingly few foundries fell in between. Foundry size was a factor, but the largest determinant was the company’s approach to developing its workers. About 30% of foundries have an employee development budget and plan for the year, while 70% said they do not.

AFS has long championed the view foundries that invest in training are investing in increased plant efficiency, fewer defects, lower scrap rates, and are helping workers to see a future and career path at the company. All of those benefit the foundry in quantifiable and non-quantifiable ways. AFS therefore encourages every foundry to assess workforce development needs and make training a key priority in 2018-2019.

There are numerous training options available, including community colleges and suppliers. Some of the best options are offered by the AFS Institute. AFS has just completed a million-dollar investment in our training programs. The result is 37 completely redesigned classroom courses based on foundry skills mastery, taught by industry experts. These classroom courses are scheduled out through spring 2019.

Any course can be customized and presented in your own foundry on an in-plant basis. One midwestern foundry that recently purchased AFS in-plant training found the ensuing reduction in casting defects to be remarkable.

Another part of the million-dollar investment in metalcasting curriculum is the 108 e-Learning modules, which allow for worker training without travel expenses or time away from the plant.  One foundry in Pennsylvania is using AFS e-Learning to train engineers and supervisors. Another foundry on the East Coast now sees AFS e-Learning as an essential part of its new-hire orientation. Not only are foundries tapping into AFS e-Learning, but FEF universities are as well.

Whether the training comes from AFS, a community college or a supplier, the commitment made to worker-skills development is likely to yield a healthy payoff. We encourage you to make 2018-2019 a year of skills development and mastery at your facility.

Click here to see this story as it appears in the August 2018 issue of Modern Casting