MILWAUKEE — The first nationally recognized toolmaking certification program is nearing completion.
Developed through a partnership between the American Mold Builders Association and Expert Technical Training LLC, the program is intended to make it easier to find qualified workers and assess skills within an organization.
The development team is currently seeking volunteers to test preliminary versions of certification tests, announced Todd Finley of Commercial Tool & Die Inc. and David Bowers of JMMS Inc. during AMBA’s annual convention, held May 14-16 in Milwaukee.
The planned certification program was announced at last year’s convention and is in response to “overwhelming requests” from AMBA members, Finley said.
“They identified that the No. 1 issue that they’re having in their business is training the next generation of skilled workers,” he said.
The development group assembled more than 1,200 knowledge and skill standards for the industry through discussions with specialists in a range of tool making fields and from all across the country.
Though some states and federal education groups use certification programs, the industry lacks a national standard. By working with a cross-section of skills and regions, the group aimed to create a definitive set of standards that can be recognized anywhere in the country.
“Nobody that we know of has ever downloaded all of the skills and knowledge that are required to do what we do,” Finley said. “It’s important to understand that you have to start at the end to get to the training part of it. You have to define what it is you’re training for so that you can develop the training to get there.”
Three tests have been developed for three different skill levels: basic skills, master mold maker and master CNC machinist. The tests, which are taken online, are budgeted for four hours, although testers so far have averaged around half that, Finley said.
Test results are presented as a grand total and are also broken down into individual skill sets, to help identify areas where workers consistently score lower.
“It identified things for us in our organization that, wow, we never really understood that we had this problem or this gap in our skill set,” Bowers said.
Three of Bowers’ employees have taken the test, one at each level. He’s now working to develop individualized training plans based on the results, he said.
“I needed something myself to assess skills. I can observe how a worker works in the workplace, but as I have to try to screen talent for our business, I wanted some scientific or some objective measure rather than my subjective feelings, or premonitions or perceptions of what an individual was capable of,” he said.
Before finalizing the program, the development team is looking for 30 to 50 people to take each test to suss out any problems with how questions are worded or scored. Once finalized, the tests will be available to all AMBA members for an undisclosed fee. Toolmakers in any region will be able to use the standards in working with the local education community to help develop resources for new skilled workers, Finley said.
“There is not a tool now specifically for mold builders or CNC machinists. So this will give you the tools to develop your curriculum, to develop your apprenticeship programs, and to certify that somebody has reached that end,” he said. “This will be specifically for mold builders. It’s pretty cool stuff.”