Anaheim, Calif. — Custom manufacturer Mack Molding Co. is solving its skilled worker shortage with custom training.
Twelve veteran Mack employees are sharing their expertise with new hires in an internal program called Mack U that covers everything from customer communication to electrostatic discharge and wiring assemblies.
The first seven “graduates” recently completed 14 courses and 21 hours of class time and hands-on training of the initial curriculum aimed at meeting requirements for electromechanical operator I positions. Next they will learn about drawing, wire schematics, pneumatic connections, plumbing, soldering and the integration of firmware, software and hardware, which will let them move into higher-level openings.
“It's not a broad curriculum. We can get very specific,” Jeff Somple, president of Mack Molding and the business unit Mack Medical, said at the UBM Advanced Manufacturing Expo in Anaheim.
The medical unit represents about 35 percent of the $350 million of sales Mack does annually, Somple said.
“If you're an engineer with a medical background, you can pretty much write your own ticket,” he added.
Even so, finding the next generation of engineers and technicians keeps a lot of executives up at night, Somple said.
“We finally decided to take the bull by the horn and do it ourself,” he said of Mack U, which comes on the heels of a paid internship program that brings up to 20 interns into the business every summer and easily represents a six-figure investment.
In the last year, Mack has had six former interns become full-time employees — a record number for the company. They work at the headquarters in Arlington, Vt., which is focused on the medical market, and where they bring prior knowledge of Mack operations, fresh ideas and the promise of a stable workforce.
Five of the former interns have bachelor's degrees in mechanical engineering, biomedical engineering or technology, while the other studied advanced manufacturing at a community college. Somple said he was pleased to welcome them back.
“That shows us things are starting to work,” he said. “I think manufacturing in the United States is all of a sudden exciting again. In the meantime, we've lost a generation of youth that left high school and didn't go into manufacturing.”
From the offshoring of production work to the lure of high-tech companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft, manufacturing was perceived as “not cool” for a long time, according to Somple.
“A lot of things have changed since then,” he said. “Manufacturing has gotten a lot cooler with robotics and the products we make. With a two-year technical degree, you can make a nice career for yourself in manufacturing.”