HS Seniors & Grads Power BMW’s High-Tech Workforce Pipeline

“Our most important asset is our people, our team members.”

Paul Sinanian, Manager for Talent Programs and Training at BMW Manufacturing’s Spartanburg, SC facility, explained how the German-based company is developing this asset both on site and in schools in South Carolina.

Their strategy could have big implications for employers, employees and educators across the U.S.

“We want to make sure that our team members know and feel that it’s valuable to us to make them valuable to the company. That starts the first day they come in the door and continues through their entire career.”

That is a tall order in what is an absolutely colossal operation: the Spartanburg plant is the largest BMW manufacturing facility in the world.

Opened in 1994, the 8 million square foot plant now employs some 11,000 people. The plant is the global producer of most every BMW SUV in the world, the X3, X5, and X7, as well as the X4 and X6 sport activity coupes. Better than 1,500 of these in-demand vehicles are produced every single day in the highly advanced operation, with more than 2,500 manufacturing robots, miles and miles of conveyors, and any number of automated and computerized systems. Just keeping the plant running requires thousands of workers to be fully expert in mechatronics, IT, robotics, and logistics.

Recruiting, developing and retaining a medium-sized city’s worth of skilled workforce is the essential challenge for the entire operation, explained Sinanian. But in a state economy long dominated by the textile industry, the advanced technical skills required for the modern automatic industry were in short supply early in the plant’s operation. The local secondary and post-secondary education system lacked the pathways that aligned with the plant’s need for highly skilled workers.

“Trying to recruit for our highest skill positions externally was and still is nearly impossible,” Sinanian explained. “If we need 10 of them, we are going to hire 1 and train the other 9. We want to grow them internally because that helps build our culture as an organization.

To meet the challenge and build a workforce pipeline to sustain the operation, the facility’s leaders drew upon the expertise in vocational education and training (VET) of BMW’s home country–Germany.

Long a world-leader in VET, or career and technical education as it is more commonly known in the U.S., Germany leverages a “dual system” which combines school-based learning experiences with practical, workplace learning under skilled mentors, to build a highly skilled workforce powering some of the most advanced industries in the world. This learn-and-earn strategy is a key element of the world’s best VET systems–from Singapore to Switzerland. It’s a model now building a highly skilled workforce in the Upstate region of South Carolina.

In 2010, the plant partnered with the state of South Carolina and local technical and community colleges to launch the BMW Scholars program, an apprenticeship program for high school graduates enrolled in career paths related to manufacturing technology. Leveraging a $5 million state grant, BMW created the program and curriculum in partnership with Spartanburg Community College, Greenville Technical College, Tri-County Technical College and Piedmont Technical College.

In the program, students attend class full-time, working toward an Associates Degree, and work at the BMW plant for 20 to 25 hours per week receiving hands-on training and experience. BMW covers the cost of tuition, provides healthcare benefits, and pays students between $17 and $19 per hour when they’re on the job. The participants receive the most advanced training in the industry on state-of-the-art equipment and facilities. This experience provides them with the skills to create and work with the newest technologies, including self-driving vehicle systems, new safety technologies, and various digital vehicle components.

In 12 years, the program has produced more than 360 graduates, with better than 99 percent accepting a position at BMW once they graduated. Those graduates earn more than $20/hour with full benefits starting out and in a few years can earn $30/hour.

Now the company is making that pitch to a new set of future employees: high school seniors. Not content to just get high school graduates into their earn-and-learn program, Sinanian and his team developed the Rising Scholars program which allows high school seniors to get a head start on a career in advanced manufacturing. The one-year, pre-apprenticeship program just graduated its inaugural class of high school seniors who worked part-time at the plant while attending high school and enrolled at a participating Career and Technical Education (CATE) Center. The Rising Scholars receive a U.S. Department of Labor certificate and are candidates for the BMW Scholars Program.

“We see this as really building the foundation for a career,” said Sinanian. “We don’t say we’re getting you ready for a job. We don’t ever want you to leave. We want you to have the skills you need throughout your career here. We want to help employees develop the ability to change and grow their skills over time.”

Further demonstrating their commitment to life-long learning, this past year the team launched a new talent development program for current employees without advanced certifications. Participating employees can enroll in the one-year program where half of their time is spent in classes at the partner community and technical colleges and half of their time is spent working in the plant. The participants also have access to a pool of skill-development resources on the job and career guidance.

This dynamic approach to workforce development is propelling BMW Manufacturing’s Spartanburg forward. As Sinanian observed, it was only possible through real partnership between the company, local institutions, and state leadership.

“The state and its related organizations are completely open to new ideas: new technologies, new roles, and how we attract new students,” Sinanian noted. “This is really the model of how a state and industry can work together toward a common goal.”

Should more states and industries learn from this model, we could well see the kind of growth in cutting edge learning opportunities that will help U.S. students and workers better compete on the world stage.

Source link

Denial of responsibility! galaxyconcerns is an automatic aggregator around the global media. All the content are available free on Internet. We have just arranged it in one platform for educational purpose only. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials on our website, please contact us by email – [email protected]. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.