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MEP is developing a technology tool called SMARTalent (Strategic Management Acquisition and Retention of Talent) that will help manufacturers operationalize their workforce development strategies and automate basic tasks. As manufacturers focus on workforce planning and investment, the SMARTalent tool can help them operationalize those investments. SMARTalent can be used for job profiling, want ads, workforce diagnostics, competency and skill identification, work flow planning, lay-off aversion and succession planning, and will automate functions for these activities. Like all technology, it does not replace the creative thinking and analysis necessary for high-quality workforce development. Rather, it will enable manufacturers to eliminate task redundancies and streamlines processes through the use of advanced technology. Click here for a powerpoint explanation of SMARTalent.

Strategic Consulting

MEP partners with manufacturers to ensure that their access to talent, and to training and educational resources, is not limited by a manufacturer’s size. MEP centers can help manufacturers with business strategies that maximize the impact of their workforce investments, and, on behalf of their manufacturing clients, leverage their own partnerships at the local, regional, state and federal levels to bring the most current thinking, policies, techniques, and technology to manufacturing workforce development and performance management. MEP will help companies think about workforce investments in exactly the same way one thinks about investments in new production technologies or markets, and to gather data on workforce investments using analytics, just as manufacturers do for lean, quality and other investment calculations. This systems analysis will help define the true value of human capital investments by evaluating both tangible and intangible results such as reduced turnover, improved customer service, new product ideation, patents, shorter cycle times in problem-solving, and reduced liability costs, just to name a few, and to do so as an integrated part of an overall strategy for business growth.

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Training and Education Partnerships

MEP engages in training and education partnerships at the regional, state and federal levels to support American manufacturing, and develop the highly-skilled manufacturing workforce needed for competitiveness. These partnerships include trade associations, federal and state agencies, educational systems, and business coalitions, and all serve the American manufacturer through knowledge and resource-sharing, technical assistance, seed money, training and certification, and network development.

The National Association of Manufacturers is a key partner with MEP in workforce development, providing information to manufacturers on their Skills Certification System. The certifications are industry-recognized credentials that validate job seekers’ skills in specific manufacturing disciplines. NAM’s partners in this system, besides MEP, include ACT, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, the American Welding Society, the National Institute of Metalworking Skills and the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council.

The Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge is a $26 million initiative to boost regionally-driven economic development strategies that support advanced manufacturing clusters. NIST MEP will provide funding of up to $125,000 per year for three years to up to 12 existing MEP Centers in the form of a cooperative agreement. This program will enable MEP Centers to partner with other organizations in their region in order to help their companies with Advanced Manufacturing efforts. The national effort will spur job creation and economic growth through public and private partnerships. In addition this initiative will help catalyze and leverage private capital, build an entrepreneurial ecosystem, and promote advanced manufacturing and cluster-based development in regions across the United States

Make it in America Challenge: On May 31, 2013, competition closed for a $40 million multi-agency competition, the Make it in America Challenge, that will accelerate the trend of insourcing, where companies are bringing jobs back and making additional investments here in America. The competitions, which is being funded, by the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration (EDA) and the  National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP) and the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration (ETA), will build upon the administration's bottom-up approach to strengthening the economy and creating jobs by partnering with state, regional, and local economies.

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Workforce Readiness

All manufacturing employees need to have soft skills as well as technical skills, including emotional intelligence, communication skills, strength in cognition and analysis, business acumen, and creative problem-solving skills. Supervisors are leaders, not just technicians, and are required to be mentors, not simply bosses. Front-line workers can be valued for their ideas, not just their output and, these days, as productivity reaches its highest levels ever, should be recognized for their intrinsic value – something most often mistakenly seen as intangible and unquantifiable. MEP partners with a variety of public and private institutions to help kids, parents, teachers and policymakers understand the critical need of a highly-skilled manufacturing workforce.

In 2011, a major expansion was announced of Skills for America’s Future, an industry-led initiative to improve industry partnerships with community colleges and build a nation-wide network to maximize workforce development strategies, job training programs, and job placements. Included in the expansion was an emphasis on skills certification. An important aspect of this expansion is the NAM Manufacturing Skills Certification System, that will give students the opportunity to earn manufacturing credentials that will be valued by a range of employers and improve earning power. This will allow students and workers to access this manufacturing credentials and pathways in community colleges in 30 states as a for-credit program of study. Click here for more information about the certification including targeted states and contact information.

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Business Stabilization

The Manufacturing Sector Lay-off Aversion Business Assistance is a collaboration among workforce investment board rapid response/layoff aversion teams and MEP centers and partners. MEP centers work with multiple state and local partners including workforce investment boards, to assess companies at risk and identify cost savings, training, re-training and redeployment opportunities to ensure that the company and the local economy does not lose revenue or skills. Strategies to address them might include reducing costs through process improvements, or reducing waste or energy use, and implementing innovation and growth strategies. Growth strategies can include diversification into new markets, new product development, and other innovative practices to foster profitable growth and increase sales.

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For more information about Workforce, contact your local MEP center or NIST MEP:

Stacey Wagner
(301) 975-4850