- Associated Press - Sunday, November 2, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - The Virginia Manufacturers Association is partnering with nine community colleges in Virginia to offer students manufacturing skills credentials.

The curriculum and skills assessment program of the Manufacturing Skills Institute, a workforce development affiliate of the association, was developed as a way to help train a pipeline of people with skills needed to enter manufacturing jobs, and to fill what is expected to be a gap as current workers retire.

“About 35,000 people are going to retire in the next few years” from manufacturing jobs in Virginia, said Brett Vassey, president and chief executive officer of the trade group for manufacturing companies.

The number likely would be larger if not for the economic downturn, he said.

“We are going to need the capacity statewide in a very short time to be able to replace and train a large number of people for production-manufacturing related occupations,” Vassey said.

The curriculum and skills assessment emphasizes skills in math and measurement, spatial reasoning, manufacturing technology and business acumen.

It will initially focus on offering a manufacturing technician certification as a baseline credential.

The goal is that when a new employee has completed the certification, “they know the basic things - basic math, basic mechanics and hydraulics - they know something about quality, and they know something about chemistry,” said Victor Gray, a master trainer for the Manufacturing Skills Institute.

Gray led a training class in Richmond in October for the first group of community college teachers who will be instructors. They included David Parks and Mike Howell of Virginia Western Community College, and Jim Garland of Mountain Empire Community College.

One representative of a private-sector manufacturer also attended the training - Mike Reed, a human resources operations liaison for Mylan Pharmaceuticals.

“We have been teaching a lot of these skills already, but to what standard?” Parks said. “This quantifies it.”

“This gives an employer something to look at and say, ‘OK, if they have this certification, it means they have learned these things, and I can count on that.’ It just makes people more employable.”

The community colleges that are participating are: Blue Ridge Community College, John Tyler Community College, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, Mountain Empire Community College, Southside Virginia Community College, Tidewater Community College, Thomas Nelson Community College, Virginia Highlands Community College and Virginia Western Community College.

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Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch, https://www.timesdispatch.com

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