PMA Building Off-the-Shelf Apprenticeship Programs

March 20, 2024

To address critical metal forming-industry workforce needs, the Precision Metalforming Association (PMA) has been busy developing apprenticeship-program content. Specifically, the association is creating generalized Press Operator and Toolmaker & Die Setter competency-based apprenticeship programs for metal formers looking to build such programs, according to Connie King, PMA workforce development director.

The content, to be available by summer 2024, involves PMA staff working with subject-matter experts (SMEs) from across the metal forming industry to develop related training instructions (RTIs) that will be folded into the base programs.

“PMA and experts from member companies are outlining, through RTIs, program content, including 144 hr. of online training,” King explains. “Then we will provide guidelines on how best to perform on-the-job training.”

PMA-member SMEs on the apprenticeship task force include representatives from North American Stamping Group, PTM Corp. and Automation Tool & Die, working with King, PMA development technical training manager Scott Rieg, and Mary Pramik, PMA workforce development manager.

Big Advantages for DoL-Approved Apprenticeships

Upon completing the apprenticeship content, PMA will funnel it through organizations such as the Virginia Manufacturers Association, Jobs for the Future, and Manhattan Strategy Group, to obtain approval by the U.S. Department of Labor (DoL). The advantage for companies working off of PMA’s DoL-approved apprenticeship templates?

“The work is done for them,” King says. “We create a standardized process where member companies can change as much as 20% of the content to meet their specific needs without requiring an extensive DoL reapproval process, and, PMA works closely with the National Institute of Metalworking Skills to help build out the base apprenticeships for specific PMA-member companies—another exceptional benefit.”

Employers that hire apprentices frequently see improved productivity and profitability, according to officials from DoL and the National Institute of Standards and Testing. In general, they note, the typical employer experiences a 44% ROI on registered apprenticeship programs, and within manufacturing, employers experience 91% employee retention after apprenticeship completion, and receive an average of $1.47 back per dollar invested from increased productivity. Also, 87% of apprentices become employed after completing their programs, with an average starting wage above $50,000. And, they’ll earn $300,000 more during their careers.

“Apprenticeship programs show that manufacturers are investing in a person,” King says. “That person now has engagement, with a pathway and a vision, and with progress that provides salary improvements along the way. Apprentices see something tangible, whereas manufacturers that just place new employees straight out on the shop floor, with little training or support, might wonder why they leave within a matter of weeks…or worse, hours.”

DoL approval of PMA apprenticeship programs also means simplified paths to individual state approval and funding sources, as many states accept DoL approval as their own. DoL also has stepped up apprenticeship funding, recently announcing availability of $200 million in grants to grow registered apprenticeships. PMA soon will offer members an online, clickable repository of available funding at federal and state levels.

“Once our general apprenticeship programs gain DoL approval, PMA member companies can pull them off of the shelf, change as much as 20% of content without requiring reapproval, and more readily receive funding through various federal and state grant programs for that training,” King says. “PMA can connect these companies to the funding sources, and we offer the training in the apprenticeship guidelines online for purchase.” 

Metalforming Insights—Data Drive Improvement

Another PMA-member benefit, access to Metalforming Insights (powered by Harbour Results, Inc.), is designed to identify and address pain points to improve business performance. It provides important data related to metal stamping and tool and die workforce-development and apprenticeship efforts. For example, the Metalforming Insights Workforce Report reveals the steps taken by best-in-class manufacturers to manage the talent crisis and implement new strategies for workforce attraction and retention. Some nuggets from the 2023 Workforce Report:

  • 76% of surveyed PMA-member tool shops have apprenticeships available as a means of recruitment.
  • Manufacturers’ onboarding and training processes have improved little, causing misses in production that affect efficiency and profit. 
  • Turnover is high for many manufacturers, but those with the lowest turnover have higher quality measures.
  • Many manufacturers average machine uptime of less than 70% and struggle to reach production on some days.
  • Manufacturers with younger workforces are significantly more efficient, not due to inefficiency of older workers but because a diverse age group offers more critical thinking that drives efficiency.
  • 89% of manufacturers collaborate with schools and encourage students to enter the manufacturers’ apprenticeship programs when joining the workforce.
Industry-Related Terms: Die, Forming
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms


See also: Precision Metalforming Association

Technologies: Training


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