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Program helps build careers in advanced manufacturing
Comstock Park’s Expert Tech offers free training for workers.
While many people are lamenting the skills gap facing the advanced manufacturing industry, one local company is working to close that gap.
Expert Tech, 5352 Rusche Drive NW, Comstock Park, offers free training to prospective advanced manufacturing employees and then helps them score jobs with local companies.
“We call it the Entry to Expert program,” said Ryan Pohl, president and co-founder of Expert Tech. “We offer training programs for the CNC and die mold industry and beyond.”
Pohl is a seasoned journeyman CNC machinist and a certified manufacturing teacher. He holds an associate’s degree in manufacturing tooling, a bachelor’s degree in technical education, and a master’s degree in industrial training and development. He has taught at both the high school and college levels and is committed to the future of manufacturing.
“We need to learn how to make things again and we need to make that a noble thing to get back into,” Pohl said. “Let’s not forget how an economy is driven: An economy is driven on production and making tangible products that have value in the open market.”
Expert Tech offers a variety of programs, but Pohl said the company’s level one program is its most popular. The program consists of 200 hours of classroom, shop floor and online training.
“It’s something of a boot camp with rigorous expectations and high standards,” he said.
To enter the program, applicants must submit an online application, sit through an interview, and take an IQ and aptitude test. A good work history is also important to getting accepted into the program.
Pohl said a big part of what Expert Tech is looking for in applicants is soft skills — showing up on time, being dependable, working hard — so it knows they can be successful in a job once they have the training.
Once applicants have completed the training, Expert Tech assists them with landing a job. The company has relationships with several advanced manufacturing businesses looking for experienced candidates.
“The reason the training program is free is because companies are having a hard time finding prequalified candidates. If they get through our training program, we represent these individuals to companies and we present them for employment. The company reimburses us the cost of recruiting and training these people and they ultimately hire them,” Pohl said.
To help the companies and the job candidates, Expert Tech prepares a 12-page profile on each prospect highlighting their abilities and experience.
Expert Tech has placed 130 people so far and has a 90 percent retention rate.
Pohl said he thinks the program is successful because it gives applicants a true taste of what advanced manufacturing careers are all about.
“Because of the difficulty of the program, once they get into the industry, they are very well prepared,” he said. “They know what to expect when they get out there. There are very few surprises of ‘Oh, I didn’t think it was going to be like this.’ They are excited to be getting into it, and that is the other reason it is working well.”
Pohl sees people from all backgrounds applying for the program, but he said the majority are three to five years out of high school and starting to think about longer-term dreams — a family, a house — and wanting a career that can support those dreams.
“The average pay in advanced manufacturing across the nation is $77,000 a year — that is $11,000 higher than all other industries combined,” Pohl said. “It’s a great industry and we are trying to get that awareness out. Through the training program, we spend a lot of time talking about the opportunities so they are ready to go out and capitalize on those.”
Once candidates have landed a job, Expert Tech offers the companies the opportunity for continued employee training.
“We like to see our guys getting into some formalized training program,” Pohl said. “We offer services that help people train their own people. That’s our level two. We offer template services that help them take what they are already doing and turn it into a formalized training program.
“We really think training is the key to advanced manufacturing and people having success: OK, you’ve hired one of our guys; let’s … get them on a scheduled path of development.”
Pohl said the future is bright for advanced manufacturing careers. He noted a recent study that predicted a several billion-dollar gap that will exist by 2020 between available work and the capacity to do the work in the United States.
“They studied what are going to be the market demands from major OEMs, and the evidence is pretty conclusive: There is going to be a lot of work available for a long time,” he said. “It’s really about having the people to do it, the capacity to do it.”
Pohl added, “Because of the complex nature of a lot of the tooling that is being done, there is plenty of evidence to show there is simply always going to be some sort of tool-and-die or high-end precision CNC manufacturing base in the States.”