Goal is to overcome stigma and attract skilled workers

WILLIAMSPORT, PA.— There’s a crisis facing the manufacturing industry: the lack of skilled workers. To help combat this challenge, PMF Industries established a groundbreaking apprenticeship program.

PMF Industries (www.pmfind.com) is a metal fabricator that often combines its specialty, flowforming, with other custom manufacturing processes, The company employs about 100 team members at it 150,000-square-foot facility, located on 10 acres in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Working closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor, Keystone Development Partnership, and Central Pennsylvania Workforce Development Council, PMF developed an innovative, state-approved Computer Numerical Control (CNC) program that is discovering—and then delivering—exactly what skilled workers are looking for in today’s career opportunities.

“With an aging workforce, we knew if we didn’t think outside the box and use innovative ideas to attract new skilled workers, we’d be in serious trouble,” said PMF President and General Manager John Perrotto, in a company release. “We were firm on the idea of establishing an apprenticeship program. But the bigger question was, how would it work? Then we had a breakthrough.”

PMF team members realized the key was to truly understand the interests and behaviors of their target audience—younger workers. Focused on this, they focused on things they knew would resonate with younger workers who might worry about a career in manufacturing: technology, growth opportunity, no student loan debt, and more.

Armed with this insight, PMF developed an apprenticeship consortium with five local high schools that offer Career & Technology Center (CTC) Programs: Williamsport High School, Jersey Shore High School, Keystone Central, Sun Area Tech (New Berlin, Pennsylvania), and CPI (Bellefonte, Pennsylvania). Other Williamsport area manufacturers have since joined the effort.

Currently, eight apprentices are actively participating in the CNC apprenticeship program. These young people are earning while learning, but the education doesn’t cost them anything. During the three-year program, participants are paid for 2,000 hours of on-the-job training per year. They receive 144 hours per year of classroom time on one evening per week.

Upon completion of the program, the apprentice earns three years of bonafide work experience, a good wage and benefits, a state-certified journeyman’s designation, and no student debt.

“This program offers quite a positive leap into adulthood,” said PMF Executive Vice President and Director of Engineering Ken Healy. “We are creating viable career opportunities for young workers who have determined college is not in their plans, and we’re attracting the new workers we wanted. It’s a real win-win.”

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