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At the One-Year Mark, Veterans Training Program is Helping Plug Skills Gap

Military veterans and advanced manufacturing, they seem like a natural fit. Many former service members return to civilian life with technical prowess not easily acquired, while the well-publicized skills gap means that manufacturers are energetically engaged in finding employees with advanced technical skills, or who show an aptitude for developing them.

For veteran Ryan Clouse, that synergy is translating to a new job. Clouse is a former U.S. Marine. He served from 2012 to 2016 as a ground radio repair technician and sought an opportunity to use the technical skills acquired while in the Marines in his civilian life.

As of early November, Clouse is a newly minted graduate of the Academy of Advanced Manufacturing. Clouse will be taking his talents to Rexel, a global distributor of electrical supplies and services, and he's excited about his prospects.

That type of outcome is what Rockwell Automation and ManpowerGroup aimed for when they jointly launched the academy slightly more than a year ago. The program's intent is to give veterans the skills they need to succeed in advanced manufacturing roles, as well as play a part in plugging the well-publicized skills gap.

Clouse is a member of the academy's fifth student class and graduated in early November. He recently joined other program participants at a Rockwell Automation event to help share a one-year update on the program's progress.

AAM training is concentrated, lasting 12 weeks. "Intense and awesome" is how the Marine veteran described the education he received. Approximately 100 veterans have participated in the program and placement rates for graduates are high. All graduates from the past two classes have moved into industrial positions, with about an 80%-plus placement overall, according to Rockwell Automation.

Scott Bingham is another one of those graduates. A U.S. Air Force veteran with avionics systems know-how, Bingham was a member of AAM's inaugural graduating class and is a senior automation technician at cable and wire manufacturer Southwire Co. He says AAM presented an opportunity he would not have had otherwise.

Moreover, while the technical training is substantial, both Clouse and Bingham called out the value provided by the non-technical curriculum, specifically that aimed at transitioning into civilian life.

Tough Skills to Find

Meanwhile, Ann Hansen shared what's at stake for manufacturers in search of technical talent. Hansen is a human resource manager with Federal-Mogul Powertrain, which hired an AAM graduate from the April class.

Skilled trade positions such as electrical and maintenance technicians are the toughest to fill, she says. For example, Hansen says it takes about 13 months to find people for those opportunities who have the right skills and fit the company culture. The low unemployment rate in the U.S. doesn't help, either.

For Federal-Mogul, participation in the Academy of Advanced Manufacturing is a strategic venture and with it came a learning curve. And a benefit. She believes the new hire from AAM "is going to be one of those cutting-edge individuals."

Clouse had some final words both for the organizations behind the academy and those who employ its graduates. They boil down to "thank you." "Don't lose sight of how much you impact lives," he said.

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