Manufacturing Leaders Searching for ways to Fill Open Jobs

By: Hannah Saunders Email
By: Hannah Saunders Email

After Tom Jones graduated from high school, he began a full-time, four year apprenticeship program at Bekum America in Williamston; learning to manufacture machines which make plastic bottles.

"I feel like I can go anywhere and very quickly learn any job," he said. During his apprenticeship, he was also earning college credit: "Now I have an associate’s degree in Electrical Technology," and a job, he doesn't intend on leaving anytime soon.

The program has done wonders for Bekum America. So far, it's been able to hire 14 full-time workers because of it.

"They are two courses away from having an associate’s degree, they're earning a very good salary, they have a very good trade, and they're debt free," said CFO of Bekum America Owen Johnston.

Since there are so many types of manufacturing needs, this program helps Johnston get more people who are particularly skilled in his trade: "Growing your own is the way to go."

He's sharing his idea with other manufacturing leaders in the state, as a way to fill their open jobs, most of their applicants aren't qualified enough to fill.

"What used to be the standard thing, you could come out of high school and be trained to do something in the manufacturing field. That doesn't work anymore...In most cases, you need to be certified and trained in some sort of skill set after that," said President and CEO of the Michigan Manufacturers Association Chuck Hadden, during Tuesday's Manufacturing Summit meeting.

The type of training Tom was paid to do: "The knowledge I've gained here can be applied to really most any part of the electrical field."


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