An Idea Worth Stealing

by Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent   Lowbrow Customs is a Cleveland-based maker of custom motorcycles and parts. They’ve made some innovative accessories and amazing builds, garnering a reputation that’s worldwide. But it’s what they’re doing in our hometown of Cleveland that has us stoked.   On their website and YouTube channel, they’ve recently announced a scholarship program through the Tri-C Advanced Technology Training Center (which Sonnhalter is also proud to support). The two $2,500 scholarships will help at-need students pursue careers in manufacturing. The goal? To show people that there’s more to higher education than a four-year degree. That they can find an exciting and rewarding career, and that they can join a long tradition of high-quality, American manufacturing. And that by doing this, as my Grandfather always said, “A rising tide will lift all boats.” We couldn’t agree more.read more >

Using the Gender Gap to Close the Skills Gap

As the focus on the skills gap has grown, so have efforts to draw women into these well-paying, career-path jobs. Along with technology and training advancements, so are the opportunities and accessibility to these previously “men only” careers. It’s taken root in elementary schools, where “Girls in STEM” efforts have seen expanded class offerings. No longer is it “Girls in Home Ec, Boys in Shop” as even local media have noted. (https://www.wkyc.com/article/tech/science/girls-in-stem/girls-in-stem-betsy-kling-explores-welding-so-much-more-than-heat-and-metal/95-550149660 ). Manufacturers have taken note too, with Lincoln Electric launching a line of women’s welding gear with Jessie Combs. Increasingly, training centers themselves are targeting women, as this recently developed infographic called "Breaking the Status Quo," from RSI, The Refrigeration School shows: https://www.refrigerationschool.com/wp-content/uploads/women-in-hvac-career-guide.jpg (click image to enlarge)    read more >

Industry Trade Association Addresses the Skills Gap Issue

Today’s guest blog post comes from Precision Machined Products Association (PMPA). More and more industry trade groups are organizing to address the skills gap, and PMPA has certainly been in the lead of that effort. Just last year they launched MFG, an online one-year certification and job training course for its members that allows companies big and small to have a consistent, accredited training program. Here is the post, which also appeared in Production Machining. Training the Next Generation: The Need for Professional Development Establish a training program that identifies the necessary requirements to be fulfilled. Professional development and staff training are important to the success of every shop. Professional development ensures employees maintain appropriate certifications, knowledge, safety and ethics in the professional environment. The goal of professional development is to have a qualified staff. Qualified employees have the skills needed to deliver the highest quality of service to our customers. This can be accomplished by establishing training programs, workshops and ongoing educational opportunities. This benefits the company as a whole by improving productivity, culture and customer loyalty while helping employees achieve their highest and best performance. Establish a Training Program Establish a training program that identifies the necessary requirements to be fulfilled. Safety training, technical competency and performance techniques are all possible deliverables. By providing this kind of training, the company can feel comfortable knowing they have improved staff knowledge leading to improved performance from their employees. Better performance means improved safety, quality and customer satisfaction. Training improves competency, so it improves performance and trust. Improved trust improves teamwork. Everybody wins. Why would you choose not to establish a training program? Administer the Training Program Identifying training needs is the first step. Administering a program to provide the training, testing that it has been effectively learned, and tracking training…read more >

What’s Holding US Manufacturing Back?

Today we have a post from Andrea Olsen. Andrea started her career in the tech start-up world, and has brought much of that innovative thinking to her work as the CEO of Prag’madik, an operational strategy consultancy, specializing in the industrial and manufacturing markets. What's Holding US Manufacturing Back? There has been an ongoing national conversation about bringing manufacturing back to the United States. The government, states, educators, and organizations have been pushing a resurgence through, addressing many of the roadblocks facing these organizations, including: lack of skilled labor, decreased sales, advancing lean manufacturing, integrating additive manufacturing, robotics, IoT and Big Data. The middle-market manufacturers - primarily in the Midwest, in the range of $50-$500m in revenues, employing 10-800 people - face a unique set of challenges. While the advancement of things like 3D printing and robotics will undoubtedly change the manufacturing landscape, these manufacturers face much more basic challenges to compete - and more accurately - survive the next 3-5 years. This isn't about the "skills gap," or "robots taking jobs," or "offshoring" or even "regulation burdens." Those challenges are further downstream for these manufacturers. Today's issues are much more fundamental. The advancements in digital technologies, communications platforms, and simply the Internet, have dramatically impacted business operations and overall competitiveness. The "blocking-and-tackling" of things like: embracing change, utilizing technology platforms, digitizing information and fostering an innovative culture, are the true essentials for US middle-manufacturing growth. Here's a short list of those essentials: 12788read more >

The Culture Threat

Today we have a post from Andrea Olsen. Andrea started her career in the tech start-up world, and brought much of that innovative thinking to her work as the CEO of Prag’madik, an operational strategy consultancy, specializing in the industrial and manufacturing markets. The Culture Threat Organizational culture is an amorphous thing. It is incredibly hard to define, and virtually impossible to measure. Leaders try to influence and shape organizational culture through a variety of tactics, from incentives and perks, to team building activities. Yet, more often than not, the "culture" seems to remain the same. The most frequently asked questions are "why" and "how do we fix it"? The traditional definition of organizational culture is "a system of shared assumptions, values, and beliefs, which governs how people behave in organizations". These assumptions, values, and beliefs don't arise simply because they are outlined in a mission statement, or reiterated ad nauseum during company meetings. Culture is shaped by behaviors - particularly of organizational leaders - which don't singularly exist within one's title. Manufacturers have voiced their concerns with organizational culture. Many we have surveyed have complained about lack of employee drive, proactive innovation, problem-solving abilities, and communication. 12785read more >

Contractors: How do you deal with Millennials and Boomers?

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter Contractors (HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical) have some serious challenges moving forward. The Average contractor is 50+, most aren't tech savvy, and they've been doing things the same way forever (chasing paper work orders). As Boomers leave the workforce at a rate of 1 every 8 seconds, a shortage of middle management will become apparent. Boomers dominate technical jobs, with the exception of IT. I learned a long time ago if you got into business, among your priorities were: grow your business, make a profit and have an exit strategy. To grow your business, you need to hire and train good people. And who's going to train the millennials? The boomers! The boomers have the intellectual capital (work experience) that needs to be transferred to the younger generations. Your pool of talent will come from the 18-34 age group and they look at things a bit differently than their older counterparts. 12161read more >

Thousands of vocational programs, many ways to connect

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter More than a year ago, we released an extensive database of thousands of vocational education programs across the country. We recently updated that list, adding about 1,000 new programs, separating them out by state tabs and standardizing the descriptions to make it even easier to search, sort and use. Why would a marketing communications firm make such a resource? We hope the tool will bridge the gap between manufacturers and educational programs. The database serves as a helpful tool for companies looking to implement more grassroots campaigns to recruit the next generation of professional tradesmen. There are a myriad of ways to take advantage of a tool like our database. I'd love to name a thousand ways to use it (given enough time and coffee I probably could too!) but I'll leave you with a few suggestions of how to make our work, work for you. Fill the Talent Pipeline 12075read more >

Sonnhalter Updates Comprehensive List of Nation’s Vocational Education Programs

Agency adds nearly 1,000 programs and other new features to list of more than 20,000 technical programs across the country. CLEVELAND – February 2017 – Sonnhalter, a marketing communications firm to the professional tradesman in the construction, industrial and MRO markets, updated its extensive database of vocational education and technical programs in the United States with new features, including the addition of nearly 1,000 programs. The database, which includes more than 20,000 programs, contains useful and easy-to-read information about each program, including addresses, phone numbers, websites and more. In addition to its new programs, each state in the database is now listed separately, and there is also an updated page for national programs and resources. Other features include more concise and easier to sort course titles. The database serves as a tool for companies looking to implement more grassroots campaigns to recruit the next generation of professional tradesmen. The convenient and easy-to-use database is available for download and is designed to be sortable and searchable for a variety of fields, including program type, location, degree type and other important information. “When Sonnhalter launched the database of vocational and technical programs, we wanted to provide a simple resource that would make it easy for companies to reach out to students interested in becoming professional tradesmen,” said Matt Sonnhalter, vision architect at Sonnhalter. “As we grow and improve our database, we continue to do our part in narrowing the gap between manufacturers and educational programs.” To download Sonnhalter’s updated, comprehensive list of vocational programs in the U.S., visit sonnhalter.com/vocational.read more >

Seven Things to Do with a Database of U.S. Vocational Education Programs

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter We did the legwork to identify more than 20,000 vocational programs at schools all across the United States, so that you don’t have to. All you have to do is download it. But once you’ve downloaded the Excel spreadsheet, what can you do with it? Here are seven different ways you can use our database: Build your network. Locate the programs in your area, and connect with the folks that run them. You never know when having a connection in those training programs could be beneficial. Become a resource for them. Whether it’s offering to send someone from your organization to speak to a class or volunteering to host a facility tour, the next generation of tradespeople won’t be able to be trained properly without support from the industry. Hire their students. Use the programs in your area as places to recruit skilled employees, co-ops, interns or apprentices. Supply them. If you offer a product or service that’s of use in a training program, supply these programs either through donations of your products or heavily discounted equipment, students will be more likely to use the equipment they're familiar with from school once they get into the workforce. This grassroots strategy has long-term benefits; an ongoing relationship with a vo-ed program will provide exposure for you for each new class. Learn them. Get to know the next generation better. Millennials as a generation seem to frighten marketers and managers, but there’s no reason to be scared. Millennials are bright, technologically inclined and learn quickly; the sooner you engage with this young talent, the better. Get your distributors involved. Your distribution network can amplify your efforts to combat the skills gap. They can reach into areas far from your headquarters and help train the next generation.…read more >

Education, recruiting and the trades – a small step can make a big difference

Today we have a guest post from Candace Roulo, senior editor at Contractor magazine.   Since I have been writing for CONTRACTOR magazine, I just had my six-year anniversary in September, education and recruiting in the trades are two issues that continue to be prevalent. No matter what trade show or convention I attend, education and training are key topics that are discussed. Since education and recruiting are of utmost importance to the key associations and industry-specific manufacturers, it only makes sense that industry professionals are starting to rally behind the issues surrounding these topics. You may have already heard this news… With so many people planning to retire soon from the plumbing, hydronic and HVAC industries, there are not enough people in the trade pipeline to fill all of the future available positions. During the next 10 years, the country will experience a projected 11% growth in jobs across the board, and the HVACR and plumbing industries are expected to grow by 21%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the HVACR industry is expected to need an additional 55,900 trained technicians; the plumbing industry, an additional 82,300. You just have to wonder how we will find all these industry professionals, especially since the trades are still looked down upon by so many people. To me, this is the crux of the problem, so the industry needs to change the stereotype. Of course, I understand that a tradesman/tradeswoman can have a lucrative career and have the opportunity to run his/her own business if he/she chooses to. He or she can also decide after years of hands-on work to go into a corporate environment – many of the people I meet that represent manufacturers are just that – a plumber or HVAC technician that decided to change up…read more >

Perspective on Training

Having a trained workforce is a major challenge in several of the industries that we work with. I wanted to share some highlights from a blog post by the NAED president (National Association of Electrical Distributors) answering the question: Why is training important?read more >

From MAGNET: Addressing the Skills Gap and Improving the Bottom Line

Each month we'll be featuring a blog post from our friends at MAGNET (Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network). MAGNET's mission is to support, educate and champion manufacturing in Ohio with the goal of transforming the region’s economy into a powerful, global player. You can visit MAGNET online at manufacturingsuccess.org. This post originally appeared on MAGNET's  Manufacturing Success blog and is reposted with permission. Addressing the Skills Gap and Improving the Bottom Line The skills gap in the manufacturing workforce continues to be a challenge. Employers constantly bemoan their inability to get qualified workers, educators convene employers to better understand what they are looking for and develop new programs, and job seekers experience frustration when they are not selected due to lack of skills. It is time to start looking more closely at potential solutions, the role that employers can play, and the value to employers. Recently reports of successful strategies are starting to emerge. The lessons learned from these successes should be explored for replication and duplication. How do you define and measure success in a way that resonates with all the stakeholders?  Typically, successful placement in vacant positions is one clear measure. Another is assessing the Economic Impact of the placement on the company and measures that affect its bottom line. One example of a project that did both, is a training program managed by MAGNET in 2011.  The project was designed to determine if the attainment of skill certifications matched to employer requirements would result in a pool of candidates to fill current or projected vacancies in entry-level positions. Four Ohio sites were selected. The local team was headed by an educational provider and partnered with the local One-Stop that assisted with recruitment of participants.  Selected employers were involved from the beginning. They committed to providing input in the content and…read more >

Sonnhalter Releases Podcast About the Importance of Online Training

Sonnhalter Releases Podcast About the Importance of Online Training BEREA, Ohio – March 2012 – Sonnhalter, a communications firm marketing to the professional tradesman in the construction, industrial and MRO markets, released the podcast, “The Importance of Online Training.” The podcast is an interview with Lisa Bordeaux from BlueVolt, an online learning management system that enables companies to train, track, and reward learning; about how manufacturers and distributors use online training and the different learning methods that it offers. “This podcast offers valuable insights about online training,” said John Sonnhalter, rainmaker journeyman at Sonnhalter. “Everyone is looking for return on investments and Lisa shares how training can offer valuable returns.” “Training, in our customers’ experience, is one of the most significant things you can do for the bottom line,” said Bordeaux. “And when we look at the data and the impact on sales, we’re consistently hearing companies tell us that they’re seeing anywhere between a 17 and 31 percent incremental increase in sales.” The podcast is available here. [sonnhalter.com/tradesman-insights/podcasts/] About Sonnhalter Established in 1976, Sonnhalter is the leading B2T marketing communications firm to companies that target professional tradesmen in construction, industrial and MRO markets. Sonnhalter’s brand identity highlights its expertise in marketing to the professional tradesmen. Its tagline, “Not Afraid To Get Our Hands Dirty,” promotes the employees’ willingness to roll up their sleeves and dig deep into clients’ businesses, also, it refers to the market it targets: the tradesmen who work with – and dirty – their hands every day. Sonnhalter developed the acronym “B2T,” which stands for “business-to-tradesmen” to capture the essence of its specialty. In 2009, 2010 and 2011, Sonnhalter was named one of BtoB Magazine’s Top Agencies. For more information, visit the company website at www.Sonnhalter.com or visit the company blog at www.TradesmenInsights.com. About BlueVolt (www.BlueVolt.com)…read more >

5 Ways to Improve Construction Productivity

One of the major setbacks for any construction project is a loss of productivity that results in delays and loss of funds. And yet, this type of occurrence is largely considered par for the course on most build sites. While many would be quick to attribute holdups to lazy workers or inadequate supervision, it is far more common for bad planning or outright ignorance to muck up the worksread more >