Rochester, Mich. — As Mark Richardson has talked to more and more companies about how they're working to attack the skills gap, he hears about homegrown programs.
Companies all over have started their own "universities," set to train existing employees on new skills and bring in kids to teach them in the ins and outs of manufacturing.
"I applaud them for doing it, but at the same time it breaks my heart," he said. "Why can't the educational community get this done?"
Richardson, an engineering consultant at Series One LLC who has also worked at Dow Chemical Co. and Visteon, is helping Oakland University launch a plastics program. The program aims to bring corporate partners, industry associations and existing community college programs together.
"There's a huge workforce gap all the way from the operator level clear up to the four-year degree engineer," Richardson said. "In order to solve that problem, it takes a community."
The nearly 20,000-student public university in suburban Detroit held a kickoff event for the program Aug. 23. The program is going to be a minor or a concentration within the school's established engineering program. It will be open to mechanical engineers, industrial engineers and chemical engineers.
Classes for the concentration are expected to start for the winter 2018 semester, which begins at the start of the year.
Magna International Inc., KraussMaffei Corp., ABB Inc. and Asahi Kasei Corp. have been integral in helping get the program launched, Richardson said. The lab hasn't been built yet, but KraussMaffei officials said they plan to donate two injection molding machines that will be about 300 tons each.