April 1, 2012

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Utah Business Staff

April 1, 2012

The ATCs in general are very hungry to work with employers. We feel like it’s our responsibility to work with you. We’re very nimble, we’re very flexible, and we want to do these kind of things. The message from all the ATCs is that we’re open for business. We would like to explore with any manufacturer what your needs are.

A program we’ve had for years at Hill Air Force Base has been highly successful. The base will hire a person under what’s called SCEP, Student Career Employment Program. They come to school for half a day, then go out to the Base and work a half  day. So at the Base, they’re learning the specific techniques on the job; in our shop, they’re learning the theory and they get a chance to ask the instructor questions that they may not want to ask their supervisor because they don’t want to appear dumb. After they get through both components, they don’t have to take the federal exam—they’re automatically hired as an employee. That model has worked extremely well for the past 10 years.

In terms of demand, the fastest-growing sectors for us are welding, machining, diesel mechanics and industrial maintenance. All manufacturing-related occupations. They’re outstripping the demand for healthcare right now, which is unusual in our environment. Healthcare seems to be the largest pool in our system.

Manufacturing is at the core of what we do as a business model, and it’s one of our finest lines of business. If we can grow manufacturing, we can grow the whole state.

BREMS: The mission of UCAT is to meet the needs of the employers. Sometimes our students will say, “Well, aren’t we first?” But our first mission is to find out what it is that you all need.

Our Custom Fit Program is one of those best-kept secrets. Last year, we served about 1,000 companies and about 17,000 trainees with that program. In our system across the state, we have enrollment annually of about 41,000 students.

We’re spread all across the state—we’re trying to be close to where the industry needs us. We really want to serve you, because we recognize that our success is based upon your success. The more we can help you to find the right people to work for the manufacturing industry, the better off we will both be.

BHASKAR: ATC is probably the most under-marketed set of institutions in the state. We need a one-time, big push for improving facilities at the ATCs. The question is: how can we get the legislature to do an allocation like that, to step it all up? ATCs provide a tremendous service to the community.

BRUCE: One of my frustrations is the failed connection between K-12 education and higher education or other degree programs. My other frustration is in Salt Lake City, where we have a number of manufacturers. I’m envious sometimes when I look at the curriculum of Davis and other ATCs. It’s clearly a larger curriculum than at Salt Lake Community College. But we have a manufacturer base right here. And we cannot tell our K-12 students that they’re going to get these higher-paying jobs when they avoid math and science. They can’t do it. Yet we get a large amount of people coming out with degrees that avoid math and science—then they look at what we want, and it’s math and science.

KIMBALL: This might be the elephant in the room, but the immigration issue is a labor issue. We really need some pragmatic solutions and to end the political posturing that happens around it.

I have people who work for me who are here legally; but because they didn’t process some paperwork for a child when they came at the age of four, that child who wants to work for our company can’t come over. We have the labor force here; we do have people who want to do the work. We need some real pragmatic solutions that will solve that problem.   

What are we doing to be globally competitive going forward on the manufacturing front?
ERICKSEN: We’re actually bringing a lot of the work that we were doing in China back to Utah. We’re doing aggressive automation throughout our plants. We found that with wages going up in China and the exchange rate going up, we can be competitive here by doing more of our own automation in-house.

But when we do that, we get into this issue where we need technical help from individuals. And to keep them and to keep everything running is a challenge.

MERCIER: How do we help the companies that are already here grow? We always hear of some company coming in, which is great. We love the new companies coming in, but it’s our existing companies that are really going to keep us strong.

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