Have you ever changed the oil in your vehicle? Some people enjoy performing their own routine maintenance, while others prefer to take their vehicle to the dealership or a quick lube place over their lunch hour.
If you’ve never changed the oil in your vehicle, why not? It’s a fairly simple and straightforward procedure. Remove the drain plug from the oil pan, allow the oil to drain, replace the drain plug, remove the old oil filter, install a new oil filter, refill the oil reservoir with new engine oil, and then check the dipstick to ensure the oil level is correct.
That’s about it. You now have the knowledge you need to change the oil in your vehicle. How confident do you feel? Are you ready to change your own oil? How about changing the oil in your friend’s brand-new truck? Would either of you feel comfortable with your abilities?
Probably not, right? Why is that? You have the knowledge you need. However, you lack the hands-on skills you’d acquire from having changed the oil in a vehicle multiple times. Like so many areas of life, knowledge alone isn’t quite enough to set yourself up for success.
That’s the lesson that many industries around the world have been learning for years now. Companies need highly-skilled workers to fill open positions, but they also need workers who can hit the ground running without weeks or months of additional training.
How can employers be sure they’re hiring workers with the hands-on skills they need? Increasingly, they’re looking for candidates with industry-standard certifications that prove workers have the skills they need.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at why hands-on skills are so important in today’s industrial workplace. We’ll also explain the role industry-standard certifications play in helping workers prove to employers that they possess the skills required to be successful. Finally, we’ll highlight two organizations that offer certifications that validate hands-on skills.
Why Are Hands-On Skills So Important?
As we mentioned briefly already, industries around the world continue to struggle to fill open positions. Despite the ongoing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, industries such as manufacturing still need more highly-skilled workers than they can find.
Why are there so many open jobs? Employers in manufacturing will tell you that it’s largely a result of the ongoing “skills gap” issue that has plagued industries for years now. With the implementation of a wide variety of new advanced automation technologies, industry needs workers with more advanced technical skills than ever before. But where are they?
The supply of skilled workers continues to lag far behind demand, creating shortages that are increasing year after year. Desperate for a solution, many industries are making bold moves to find the workers they need. For example, many employers are changing the way they hire new workers, abandoning degree requirements in favor of searching for workers with the particular skills they need.
According to a Harvard Business Review article, “employers are indeed resetting degree requirements in a wide variety of roles. The change is most noticeable for middle-skill positions — defined as those requiring some post-secondary education or training but less than a four-year degree.”
The Harvard Business Review article concludes: “[i]n evaluating job applicants, employers are suspending the use of degree completion as a proxy and instead now favor hiring on the basis of demonstrated skills and competencies. This shift to skills-based hiring will open opportunities to a large population of potential employees who in recent years have often been excluded from consideration because of degree inflation.”
How Can Certifications Help Both Employers and Workers?
The move to a skills-based hiring model represents a unique solution to the problem of finding needed workers. However, it’s not without its own pitfalls. When an employer is searching for a particular set of skills, how should students and workers demonstrate their skills and market their abilities to employers? Moreover, how can employers be sure they’re hiring qualified workers who won’t need hundreds of hours of additional training?
The answer to these questions for many employers and prospective employees is the same: industry-standard certifications. Not associated with any particular educational institution and developed in conjunction with industry partners, these certifications define objective standards regarding the knowledge and skills required to succeed in industry.
Industrial certifications give students and current workers validation and documentation of the marketable skills and knowledge they’ve obtained. They also provide an objective assessment for employers that a person has the skills necessary for a particular job. Certifications also provide guidance to educational institutions to ensure that curriculum teaches the knowledge and skills industry needs.
A wide variety of industry-standard certifications exist that certify that prospective workers possess the knowledge and, in many cases, proven hands-on skills in a particular area. Certifications come in many shapes and sizes, from micro-credentials that certify expertise in a narrow subject-matter area to more robust certifications that encompass a wide range of skills, such as all the necessary skills involved in industrial maintenance.
As skills-based hiring becomes more popular, it will be necessary for employers to become more familiar with the variety of certifications and credentials available to evidence the skills they seek. It will also be critical for educators and industries to work together to promote and encourage alternative credentialing.
A Deloitte report echoes this need:
“Alternative credentialing can encourage reskilling amid rapidly evolving technology. The shrinking shelf-life of digital skills requires continuous reskilling. Employers desire tracking and verification of those skills. As a result, the job market increasingly calls on training providers and academic institutions to offer “credentialized” records of learning and mastery. Rather than relying heavily on two- and four-year degrees, skill-specific microcredentials, digital badges, or certificates specify the exact technologies an applicant has mastered. This simplifies career shifts and employee selection, making labor markets more efficient.”
Fortunately, many economic and workforce development organizations around the country are already focusing more on certifications. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “[t]o better their workforces and provide additional economic opportunities to those who need it most, many states have put a focus on expanding postsecondary options for adult learners. These opportunities range from promoting career and technical education to expanding nondegree credentialing options.”
The technical training experts at Amatrol have long recognized the value of industry-standard certifications. That’s why Amatrol has developed training systems and eLearning curriculum in a variety of areas to help students and workers earn certifications. In the sections that follow, we’ll highlight two specific organizations that offer outstanding certifications that employers can rely on to feel confident that new workers possess the skills they need to succeed.
MSSC’s Certified Production Technician+ Skill Boss Manufacturing Certification
Throughout industry, front-line production workers share a need for essential knowledge and hands-on skills in several important production areas, including quality practices and measurement; manufacturing processes and production; and maintenance awareness.
If you’re an employer looking for a new worker with the skills to hit the ground running as a production technician, there’s one industry-standard certification you should be looking for: the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council’s (MSSC) Certified Production Technician+ Skill Boss Manufacturing (CPT+) certification.
In addition to learning the essential knowledge needed to be successful as a modern industrial production technician, the CPT+ certification adds hands-on skills verification using Skill Boss Manufacturing, a training and assessment device developed by Amatrol. The PLC-controlled Skill Boss Manufacturing can evaluate more than 50 hands-on skills important in today’s technology-driven advanced manufacturing environment.
To see Skill Boss Manufacturing in action, click on the link below to watch a short video:
MSSC President Leo Reddy summarizes the importance of using Amatrol’s training device in pursuit of certification:
“Manufacturing executives have argued for decades, and still argue, that they need more workers with deeper technical and creative problem-solving skills to be competitive in global markets. While we’ve made progress over the years, much more work needs to be done. That’s where the Skill Boss comes in — this is a cost-effective and portable machine that high schools, community colleges and manufacturers can use to train people to excel in an advanced manufacturing environment.”
SACA’s Gold Certifications for Advanced Smart Automation Skills
We mentioned earlier how implementation of a wide variety of new advanced automation technologies has resulted in industry needing workers with more advanced technical skills than ever before. Just like your phone, TV, and home have all become “smart” in the last decade or more, so have the tools and technologies that power modern industrial facilities.
Known by names such as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Industry 4.0, and Smart Factory, these technologies are having a massive impact on industrial efficiency and productivity. The essence of Industry 4.0 is the combination of cyber-physical systems, automation, and the Internet of Things (IoT) to create a Smart Factory environment.
Imagine a factory in which robots and self-driving vehicles communicate with each other and the workers overseeing them to report on a wide variety of information, such as throughput, cycle times, mechanical breakdowns, and predictive maintenance.
Smart sensors and smart devices generate enormous amount of real-time data that can be used not only to monitor current production status but also to predict future maintenance needs. These technologies require highly-skilled workers who can turn all that data into useful information that can transform productivity and efficiency. How do you find workers with these advanced skills?
The Smart Automation Certification Alliance (SACA) recognized the need for industry-standard certifications that focus on “connected systems” skills that address the integration of Industry 4.0 technology into advanced manufacturing processes. SACA is a non-profit certification organization with member schools in more than 30 states and industry-leading Platinum Members like Rockwell Automation and Amazon.
SACA’s industrial certifications feature a modular structure to fit a wide range of individual needs, industries, and educational environments. SACA offers certifications in three categories: Associate, Specialist, and Professional. Each certification is stackable, allowing individuals to earn multiple certifications to document their particular skills.
For example, SACA offers certifications in areas such as:
- basic and advanced operations;
- robot systems;
- production systems;
- IT systems;
- control and instrumentation systems;
- IIoT, networking, and data analytics; and
- automation systems.
All SACA certifications can be attained on two levels: Silver and Gold. SACA Silver Certifications are awarded to candidates who successfully pass a written knowledge exam. To address the need to validate key hands-on skills, SACA Gold Certifications are awarded to candidates who also successfully complete a hands-on performance assessment on approved equipment.
Who could benefit from a SACA certification? SACA Executive Director Jim Wall provides the answer:
“Anyone planning to enter the manufacturing workforce and those that are already in a manufacturing career. A misconception is that industrial certifications are just for those who are new to the field looking for jobs, or perhaps for students learning the trade. But in reality, almost everyone in manufacturing is going to need to be re-trained at some point in their career. Jobs are changing. A study I saw recently by McKinsey Institute estimated between 75-375 million people will have to learn new skills by 2030 due to the changing workforce. That’s staggering. So with that said, we want these companies to be able to quickly identify if an individual has the right skill set to work in an Industry 4.0 environment. So SACA’s certifications are intended to give Industry the proof that these individuals not only have the skills, but the student can also show proof of their hard work in obtaining those skills.”
Let Amatrol Help You Prepare Your Students to Earn Certifications
With over 30 years of experience, Amatrol remains the world’s leader in technical education training systems and eLearning curriculum. Amatrol recognizes the importance of industry-standard certifications and offers programs that support certifications from both MSSC and SACA.
Consult with an expert at Amatrol today to learn how you can take your CTE program to the next level by offering your students the chance to earn industry-standard certifications that will set them up for success in the workplace.
About Duane Bolin
Duane Bolin is a former curriculum developer and education specialist. He is currently a Marketing Content Developer in the technical training solutions market.