EMAG Devotes Efforts to Close Skills Gap in the Advanced Workforce
To encourage continuing growth in the mechatronics manufacturing sector, this machine tool builder has put in motion an apprentice training program that offers high-school graduates a paid education and employment that incorporates electrical, electronic and mechanical disciplines.
EMAG LLC (Farmington Hills, MI), a premium machine tool supplier to the automotive, agriculture, aerospace and oil field industries, has an ongoing interest in providing job opportunities for highly skilled, specialized machine tool technicians.
To encourage continuing growth in Michigan’s mechatronics manufacturing industry and ensure an advanced workforce to close the sector’s skills gap, EMAG has launched an apprentice training program, together with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Oakland Community College and Henry Ford Community College. The program offers high-school graduates a career in machine Mechatronics, a discipline incorporating electrical, electronic and mechanical studies, providing all graduates an Advanced Associate’s Degree.
Over the course of three years, the students will rotate educational semesters at the colleges with practical learning on the shop floor of EMAG. “This program is unique in that it is the first of its kind here in the U.S. that will develop a talent pipeline for the manufacturing industry,” stated Mike Kjorli, the EMAG shop floor manager and designated mentor to the company’s apprentices. “The participating colleges asked companies for their input to develop a real world curriculum, making it truly tailored to the needs of the industry,” Kjorli added.
All tuition and student fees, as well as supplies are provided by the EMAG. The combined classroom and work curriculum offers the students with both paid employment during their studies and a guaranteed position with the company upon successful graduation. Rebekka Neumann, hired by EMAG as an apprentice mechatronics technician, stated, “This program takes a different approach. You apply everything you learn at your job then graduate with a degree, a job and no student loan debt.”
The apprenticeship program’s goal is to introduce more people to the mechatronics technician field, providing critical support to engineers, increasing the sector’s economic strength and ability to attract and retain desirable jobs. “This will prepare them for many work opportunities in the mechatronics field, not only at EMAG, but in the whole industry,” stated Kjorli.
Two applicants, Matthew Combs and Neumann, were hired by EMAG at the start of the program. After completing their first educational semester, both joined the EMAG team in January 2014 to begin the practical rotation of their apprenticeship.
A substantial investment by the EMAG management team helped to launch the apprenticeship program in fall 2013. It has received recognition from U.S. Senators, State of Michigan officials and extensive support from college representatives.
“This program is very special for me, as I studied the then-new area of Mechatronics in school myself,” stated Peter Loetzner, the chief executive officer of EMAG. “I have always believed it is necessary that we help educate and train the next generation of engineering, operator and maintenance personnel. Nothing happens in industry if the machines are not working properly. We at EMAG are very proud to participate in this important program, which not only benefits us, but Michigan and the Detroit area, in particular.”