CMfgA students on their last day of class are recognized for completing the course, passing the final exam and achieving the Tooling U certification.
Goodwill Industries International Inc. is known for its retail thrift stores, which raise billions of dollars by selling donated clothing and housewares. While the shops are great for bargain hunters, they also have a bigger role: providing funding for critical career-building programs.
In fact, more than 85% of store revenues go directly to support community-based programs, including job training and employment services.
As part of the training initiative, local goodwill organizations are partnering with industry leaders to equip jobseekers with the skills employers demand. In 2021, nearly 2 million people received services from Goodwill to grow their careers, and more than 123,000 people were placed in the U.S.
MoKan Do attitude
The Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas Goodwill (MoKan Goodwill) is a good example of how the non-profit organization has formed innovative partnerships to help underprivileged residents. This includes working with Tooling U-SME, SME’s workforce development division, on manufacturing certification courses.
The Kansas City-based group, which has provided community service for more than 125 years, uses its resources to empower people to discover their potential and adapt for the future through the power of work. As part of its mission, MoKan Goodwill is constantly striving to improve and add new services.
“In early 2022, we decided to implement a manufacturing job training program as part of our job training offerings in the Kansas City area, so a few of us attended an event organized by the Missouri Association of Manufacturers” explained Katherine Maloney, MoKan Vice President of Workforce Development at Goodwill. “It was at this event that we learned of Tooling-U SME’s Certified Manufacturing Associate (CMfgA) certification and it seemed to be exactly what we were looking for.”
With labor shortages continuing and wages stagnating, such initiatives are vital in matching qualified jobseekers with employers. In addition to providing job training to help employees find high-paying jobs, manufacturers can fill talent pipelines with people they know are on their way to a successful start. It’s a win for both sides.
“The need for a skilled workforce is one of the most significant challenges to the future growth and prosperity of the manufacturing sector,” said Jeannine Kunz, SME’s Chief Workforce Development Officer. She warned that the current skills gap could lead to more than 2.1 million manufacturing jobs being lost in the United States by 2030.
Introduced by SME in 2021, CMfgA is an industry certification focused on basic manufacturing concepts. It is designed for people new to manufacturing who may not currently have sufficient knowledge or experience for more advanced technical certifications. Successful completion of the course demonstrates an individual’s potential for high demand entry-level manufacturing roles.
“Knowing that this course was designed for people with limited or no experience was perfect for us because the majority of job seekers who participate in Goodwill’s workforce development programs are unemployed or underemployed,” Maloney explained . “If we can help them get their certification, we can put them on the fast track to promising full-time jobs that pay a livable wage, which is something they otherwise wouldn’t necessarily have access to.”
Through the end of 2022, 33 of the 39 people who enrolled in the MoKan Goodwill program became certified, including 18 students who earned a post-program placement at manufacturing companies in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Graduates earn an average of $17.50 an hour, which is more than $6 more than Missouri’s current minimum wage.
The CMfgA program lasts three weeks, during which students attend blended learning courses. The mix includes hands-on training in a lab and in-person instruction in a classroom setting.
In the lab, for example, students participate in basic measurement procedures with instructors, using calipers and micrometers in scenarios that simulate how this skill set would apply in a real-world manufacturing situation. They also learn how to implement proper lockout/tagout practices and procedures that safeguard workers from the release of hazardous energy, which is critical to helping prevent serious injury.
“We built a space where students could take the knowledge they acquired during the classroom portion of the training and put it to use in a scenario they would encounter if they worked in manufacturing,” Maloney explained. “We’ve also invested in virtual reality headsets that allow students to run production-focused simulations that are nearly identical to the real thing.”
This allows participants to show how they can gain first-hand knowledge of the skills learned and immediately put them into practice.
“Creative partnerships with industry leaders like Goodwill are essential to developing a diverse new generation of industry professionals, equipping them with the knowledge and tools they need for successful careers,” SME’s Kunz noted. “Getting a CMfgA certification is a great start and indicates to employers that the holder is ready to start their manufacturing journey.”
One of the manufacturing companies benefiting from the CMfgA certification is Tnemec Inc., based in North Kansas City, which specializes in protecting surfaces and structures from corrosion with high performance coatings and coatings. With 10 locations across North America, Tnemec is always looking for well-trained candidates, which makes the Goodwill-SME program a great choice.
Tnemec was contacted in the summer of 2022 to participate with Goodwill and help people who needed opportunities to find their footing and perhaps get a full time job that would prepare them for future success.
“We believe in providing opportunities for those who may not have a second chance at a career,” said Ron Schimmel, director of operations and manufacturing at Tnemec. “The Goodwill program helps us meet employment needs within the company and teaches these people how to be good employees.”
Tnemec participated in four interview sessions at MoKan Goodwill with students who achieved the CMfgA. During the process, the producer identified several potential job candidates, at least one is already on the payroll and contributing to the company’s success.
Brad Cox, who earned his CMfgA through the MoKan Goodwill program, is putting his education to good use as a full-time employee with Tnemec. He learned of the opportunity through the Transitional Center in Kansas City, where he lived after serving a prison sentence for selling meth. In addition to finding him a place to live, MoKan Goodwill helped put Cox on the path to a full-time job that paid a decent salary.
“I was tired of living every day in a life of transition, so this program offered a way out,” Cox said. “I graduated from the program in three weeks and got a job at Tnemec after learning their needs and my skills were perfect. Having done this job for a good amount of time, I’m now able to look for accommodation on my own, which I wouldn’t be able to do if I wasn’t gainfully employed.”
Goodwill also helps job seekers navigate local bus services, identifying convenient means of transportation to reduce the chance of losing their job.
But the CMfgA program participants are the real heroes. It is their effort and commitment that sets them up for future success.
“The real benefit of the program is the work people do to earn it,” Maloney said. “We don’t just stamp their certification. When they graduate, they are in a place where they can bring real value to the companies that hire them and feel better about themselves for stepping up and doing something to improve their lives.