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Industry-Standard Certifications Can Jump-Start or Fast-Track Your Career in Advanced Manufacturing

A century ago, the term “factory job” meant a low-skill, low-pay job in a facility that was likely as dirty and gloomy as it was potentially-dangerous. Not something to aspire to, these jobs usually attracted only those unable or unwilling to seek higher education to pursue a different career path.

Fast forward to today and it’s easy to see how dramatically things have changed. Several Industrial Revolutions later, modern advanced manufacturing facilities represent the new frontier of advanced technology and its application to the manufacturing process.

Industry 4.0 Definition InfoGraphicThe Future Is Now

Experts believe the manufacturing world is in the early stages of a fourth Industrial Revolution that holds the potential for a massive impact on industrial efficiency and productivity. It goes by a variety of names and terms, such as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Industry 4.0, Smart Automation, and Smart Factory.

These terms describe the combination of cyber-physical systems, automation, and the Internet of Things that create a smart factory environment. Think of smart sensors and devices, robots, and self-driving vehicles working in conjunction with production machines to share data via cloud technology to monitor both real-time production status and future maintenance needs.

Smart factories are not just a thing of the future. They exist now, and the advanced technologies involved in Industry 4.0 have created a tremendous demand for highly-skilled workers to program, analyze, and maintain the many parts of these complex systems.

Skills Gap InfoGraphicThe Skills Gap

Unfortunately, supply isn’t keeping up with demand. Industry experts refer to the tremendous shortage of workers qualified to fill these positions as the “skills gap.” According to a recent study by Deloitte, nearly 4.6 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled in the next decade. Because of the “skills gap,” however, experts estimate as many as 2.4 million of those jobs could go unfilled.

Seeking to close the “skills gap,” educational institutions from high schools and technical schools to college and universities have answered the call to provide the training necessary to thrive in today’s manufacturing environment. A wide variety of programs have been developed to teach skills in a variety of areas, such as  industrial equipment and technology, smart sensors and smart devices, computerized control systems, network security, and data collection and analysis.

These programs attract students yet to enter the workforce, as well as current workers who want to gain the training and skills they need to advance their careers. Once they master new skills and finish training, though, how do students and current workers demonstrate and market their newly-obtained abilities?

On the other side of the coin, how can manufacturers ensure that new hires and current workers possess the skills and training necessary to step onto the factory floor and work efficiently and productively without hundreds of hours of additional training?

Certifications Validate Skills GraphicCertifications Validate Skills

The answer to these questions is industry-standard certifications. Not associated with any particular educational institution, industry-standard certifications are administered by a variety of organizations in conjunction with industry partners that help to define objective standards regarding the knowledge and skills necessary to thrive in today’s advanced manufacturing environment.

Industry-standard certifications can give students a jump start into a rewarding career in advanced manufacturing or put current employees on the fast track to a promotion. Certifications give students and current workers validation and documentation of the marketable skills and knowledge they’ve obtained. These industry-endorsed, portable certifications have become a new form of currency with real value in today’s competitive job market.

Manufacturers value certifications because they represent an objective assessment that a person has the skills necessary for a particular job. This reduces the guesswork involved in trying to find the best available talent. Certifications also help manufacturers to hire or promote highly-skilled people, resulting in reduced training costs and turnover, increased productivity and efficiency, and enhanced workplace safety.

Which Certifications To Pursue?

What industry-standard certifications should a student or current worker pursue? That depends upon the career path desired, but those seeking certifications can take guidance from the Skills Certification System developed by The Manufacturing Institute, which is the social impact arm of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).

The Skills Certification System was developed by manufacturers to address the “skills gap” by aligning manufacturing education with objective industry standards. The result is a growing set of stackable industry-standard certifications from a variety of organizations that connect knowledge and skills with specific jobs across a broad swath of industries.

Amatrol CPT+ Skill Boss GraphicFor example, students and current workers can obtain core technical knowledge and skills needed by front-line production workers by pursuing one of two certifications offered by the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC):

  • Certified Production Technician (CPT): MSSC’s Certified Production Technician (CPT) certification verifies that a student or current worker has mastered essential knowledge and skills in four production areas: Safety; Quality Practices & Measurement; Manufacturing Processes & Production; and Maintenance Awareness. An optional certification in Green Production is also available. The CPT program assesses and certifies the skills of front-line manufacturing production workers (entry-level through front-line supervisor) within all sectors of the manufacturing industry.
  • Certified Production Technician+ Skill Boss (CPT+): MSSC’s Certified Production Technician+ Skill Boss (CPT+) certification builds upon the CPT certification by adding hands-on skills verification using the Skill Boss, a training device developed by Amatrol. The PLC-controlled Skill Boss can evaluate over 50 hands-on skills important in today’s technology-driven advanced manufacturing environment, including an introduction to mechatronics.

Current workers and students may also want to pursue certifications for specialized skills important for particular occupations, such as maintenance, machining, welding, and more. The National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) offers more than 60 stackable certifications in specific technical areas, including popular certifications in maintenance and machining:Amatrol NIMS ITM Certifications Graphic

  • Industrial Technology Maintenance (ITM): Industrial Technology Maintenance (ITM) certifications can be obtained in nine specific technical areas: Basic Hydraulic Systems, Basic Mechanical Systems, Basic Pneumatic Systems, Electrical Control Systems, Electrical Systems Maintenance, Operations Maintenance, Piping Maintenance, Welding, and Process Control Systems. These certifications support a wide variety of workers in the fields of industrial maintenance and mechatronics.
  • Machining: NIMS offers a variety of Machining certifications for entry-level Machining (CNC and manual) skills. For example, Machining certifications can be obtained in multiple specific technical areas across two levels, including the following: CNC Mill Operations; CNC Milling Programming Setup & Operations; CNC Lathe Operations; CNC Lathe Programming Setup & Operations; Drill Press; Grinding; Job Planning, Benchwork & Layout; Milling; Measurement, Materials & Safety; Turning (Between Centers); Turning (Chucking); EDM (2-Axis Wire); and EDM (Plunge).

NIMS also offers certifications in the following areas: Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM); Diemaking; Machine Maintenance, Service and Repair; Metalforming; Press Brake; Screw Machining; and Stamping. NIMS and MSSC are not the only organizations to offer industry-standard certifications, however.

Certification Options Abound

The Manufacturing Institute has identified a wide variety of certifications developed by other organizations endorsed by the National Association of Manufacturers. Examples include: the Manufacturing Skills Institute, the American Welding Society, the International Society of Automation, the National Center for Construction Education and Research, the North American Die Casting Association, the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, the International Fluid Power Society, the Packaging Machinery Manufacturing Institute, the American Society for Quality, and the Association for Operations Management.

And what about the set of advanced knowledge and skills required in smart factories on the frontier of Industry 4.0? Don’t worry. Things are already in motion to address the need for certifications in this rapidly-expanding area.

The Smart Automation Certification Alliance (SACA) will offer Industry 4.0 certifications for a wide range of industries. Unlike other certifications available today, SACA certifications will focus on “connected systems” skills that address the integration of Industry 4.0 technology into advanced manufacturing processes.SACA Certifications Flowchart

Whether you’re a student looking for a jump start into a successful advanced manufacturing career or a current worker hoping to get on the fast track to a promotion, industry-standard certifications can give you a competitive edge by showing manufacturers that you have the knowledge and skills they need. As manufacturers seek to fill the “skills gap” with the best talent they can find, they will continue to hire and promote people with certifications, because they know these highly-skilled workers will increase productivity and efficiency and enhance workplace safety.

About Duane Bolin

Duane Bolin is a former curriculum developer and education specialist. He is currently a Marketing Content Developer for Amatrol, Inc. Learn more about Amatrol and its technical training solutions, including eLearning, here and connect with Duane on Amatrol’s Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube pages.

Click on the image below to open a larger, printable version of the infographic in a new window:

Certifications InfoGraphic

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