Need More Trained Employees? Look Within…

November 19, 2013

by Bonnie Del Conte

How often do we hear our industry bemoaning the lack of qualified, trained employees here in Connecticut? In my role, I hear it virtually all the time. While I don’t dispute the fact that fewer members of our young workforce are choosing to go into manufacturing, I do dispute that there is a lack of existing potential just waiting to be  tapped by manufacturers.  Think local – really local. Think within your own firm. What resources do you already have on board that could be more effectively trained, ultimately helping to increase your capacity and grow your business?

There are many advanced manufacturing companies in Connecticut that have a bona fide need to bring in new employees with highly specialized skill sets, e.g., aerospace and medical device manufacturers. I sit on the Connecticut Employment Training Commission’s Advanced Manufacturing Committee, helping the state to develop educational programs for these industries. CONNSTEP keeps this need at the forefront for state commissions, community colleges, and partnering with organizations like the CBIA’s Education Foundation, develop programs and identify the required funding sources.

The broad majority of Connecticut manufacturers aren’t searching for candidates with such advanced skill sets as those within the aerospace and medical device industries.  Most are looking for CNC operators and technicians – positions that can be filled by well-qualified students coming out of local technical classes, community college courses, and certificate programs. These potential employees are already on a path to a productive manufacturing career, and can be successfully mentored and nurtured in-house with further training. If you’ve already hired manufacturing employees like this, your operation already has a pool of potential waiting to be further tapped and developed.

Developing a Growth Culture through Employee Training

Training your existing employees is the easiest thing to forgo – but the most foolish to neglect. Part of our mission at CONNSTEP is to help you determine, objectively, what resources you already have that can be educated to reach higher levels of effectiveness and productivity. You may not have considered this, but you probably have some existing in-house resources that can be trained in Lean Manufacturing and then become trainers themselves, spreading the ability of your organization to increase throughput, open capacity and create growth potential.

The education curriculum CONNSTEP offers ranges from training and certificate programs in Lean Manufacturing, to coaching your staff on marketing and sales approaches in the Business Growth Program. We can help your company expand how you think of education and build upon the skill sets of employees who’ve already chosen to work toward your company’s goals.

We want Connecticut manufacturers to start thinking of how employee training fits into operations in a more holistic way; how it is integral to overall business health and increased company value.  Rather than thinking “how am I going to find a worker to fill one more seat,” we want companies to consider which internal resources can be trained to lead and manage Enterprise-Wide Lean Manufacturing initiatives. With the right training, existing staff can make the process smooth and continuous, becoming a catalyst for stripping waste from your processes, speeding throughput, reducing lead times, and generating the capacity for business growth.

Think about the time, effort and investment it takes to bring on each new employee. Do you know the total cost of bringing on an external hire? How long will it be before they will be truly productive?

Now consider your existing employee pool. Can you think of some motivated people who could learn Lean and then help lead its adoption throughout the company? The cost of finding someone externally and then training them is high. The cost of losing good people can be even higher. If you have good people, why not train them instead of hiring externally? They already know your company and its culture. They’ve already had some technical training through apprenticeships, most likely. Give them a path to move to next level. Provide the right training, and give them the pride of accomplishment; you know we all love to hang that certificate on the wall! It helps to inspire loyalty, too.

“What’s worse than training your workers and losing them? Not training them and keeping them.” —Zig Ziglar

Capture the Return on Investment

Identifying and elevating the people who could be your change champions is an inexpensive way to train those who will return to your company able to train your team.  CONNSTEP offers project-based learning opportunities for your employees that are very cost-effective ways to accomplish specific project goals, increase staff skills and gain return on investment all at the same time.  Through this approach, you are likely to save more than you spent, and you’ll have gained advocates for your strategic objectives who assist in culture change. By providing opportunities for train the trainer within the organization, you’ll be supporting your continuous improvement efforts.

Training to Fill Excess Capacity

Production cycles go up and down, but if you have a plan, a budget and a strategy in place you will be more agile, knowing the who, what, and when of employee training.  Slow periods are the perfect opportunity to take otherwise idle employees and train them – making them ready to hit the ground running when the growth materializes. If you’re managing your throughput well and have developed some excess capacity, and/or you’re looking for new markets, you’re probably thinking about a need for more employees. By training your existing resources, your current manufacturing employees can become more capable of meeting the needs of that new market opportunity. It’s more efficient than hiring and training new employees at the same time.

Don’t wait until people become idle, either. Recent Gallup research shows “…70% of American workers are ‘not engaged’ or ‘actively disengaged’ and are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces …(costing) the U.S. between $450 billion to $550 billion each year in lost productivity.”  By making training an ongoing activity, it will keep your employees engaged and connected.  This should be just as important to you as getting that new business.

Disengaged works are costing up to $550 billion annually in lost productivity – Gallup

Training for New Market Opportunities

If/When you expand into new markets, remember to think beyond the “usual suspects” – the top officers – when considering who needs education to allow your company a smooth entrance into these new markets.  Plan ahead for which employees will do what, rather than waiting until you land the business. Does your entire management team know your plans? Are you all on the same page? CONNSTEP’s Lead Program makes sure you’re meeting those new opportunities with the advantages of a Lean strategy.

If you’re just thinking about expanding but you’re not sure if your operation has a strong enough foundation to meet the opportunity, we can help. Our Continuous Improvement Certification Champion Program is meant for companies in that situation.

If you’re implementing Lean in the shop, don’t forget about your back office, too. You may be missing more opportunities to improve operations throughout, including in accounts receivable and accounts payable. Everyone should be involved in capitalizing on the opportunities at hand.

Manufacturing is coming back in Connecticut, we’re starting to see it already. The next big wave is out there. Will your company be ready?


Contact us today – we can work with you to develop a customized training plan that meets your business goals.

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Manager, Fuel Cell Energy

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VP Manufacturing Operations, Hologic

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