Metalwork Training Program

Submitted By: Susan Herring; Executive Director, Center for Workforce Development
Program Contact: Susan Herring, Executive Director, Center for Workforce Development
Email: susan.herring@bucks.edu  

Bucks County Community College

General Description

The Metalwork Training Program, creates career pathways in a unique and highly successful format. Developed in partnership with the manufacturing community, the program’s success became the catalyst for the development of a regional apprenticeship program by the NTMA (National Tooling & Machining Association) and is the model for its pre-apprenticeship program. The program has seen an increase in business participation by over 300%, has garnered hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant funding, and was key in cementing relationships between the college, manufacturers, local and state government, and the Workforce Development system.

Bucks County expects to see nearly 3,000 new jobs in advanced manufacturing in the next 10 years. This, coupled with impending retirements of baby-boomers, makes it vitally important to provide accessible means for entry into the industry sector. The goal of the Metalwork Training Program is to upskill and retrain un- and underemployed individuals to learn new skills to fill the ever-growing gap for well-trained, entry-level employees for manufacturing jobs. As retirements loom large for businesses, more well-trained entry level employees will be necessary to feed to manufacturing businesses to keep them thriving in our local economy. To date we have completed 22 cohorts of Metalwork students, graduated 193 successful completers, and boast a 92% job placement rate and high job retention rate. This high success rate is due to our robust candidate vetting and testing process, the ongoing dedication of excellent industry experts as our instructors, employability skills training, and the efforts of a dedicated job developer.

Why it works, and what differentiates Bucks: 

  • Partnership with manufacturers from start to finish - dozens of small businesses
  • Careful vetting of candidates
  • Close partnership with local Workforce Development Board/PA CareerLink
  • 1:1 career coaching/job placement
  • Staff and instructors committed to success of students/program
  • FREE to students thanks to various grants and funding through US DOL 
     

In October 2019 the Metalwork and Industrial Maintenance Training Programs achieved status as registered pre-apprenticeship programs with the state of Pennsylvania.

New Curriculum

The Metalwork Training Program was designed specifically to feed entry-level workers into manufacturing. Our manufacturing partners made it abundantly clear that the most important skills for success on the job are to show up to work every day, on time, ready to work, and have the ability to communicate well and get along with co-workers. In light of industry feedback, the program was designed to fully integrate soft skills – or employability skills – with the technical training. Candidates for the training are carefully vetted. They undergo an interview, mechanical aptitude test, drug test, and criminal background check. The program requires classroom and laboratory instruction delivered over 12 weeks per cohort, for a total of 288 hours. The curriculum was developed to provide the technical skills students need to be successful, but also the employability, or soft skills, that they will need to get and keep employment. Students are expected to treat the training as a 12-week job interview, and there are strict attendance and punctuality requirements. In addition, students participate in 6-8 on-site visits to participating employers during the program. This allows the students to learn about the various types of manufacturing companies in the region, and also gives the employers a chance to get to know our students. The training is delivered by industry expert instructors with experience in metalwork and manufacturing, supported by industry specialists from participating employers.

Sustainability

Start-up funding was awarded by the County of Bucks through CDBG HUD resources. Following the pilot program, the college has been able to sustain the program by receiving several different grants through the PA Department of Labor & Industry, Workforce Development Board (ITAs), and additional rounds of CDBG funding through the County.

Replicability

This program is highly replicable, and in great demand by the manufacturing industry due to impending retirements of baby boomers. It provides a fail-proof way to build partnerships with businesses, and Bucks has been able to leverage those partnerships by providing customized training to our partner companies. By becoming partners, we feed the employers much-needed entry level talent and are then there to assist with other training needs.