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Johnson: Training Or Wage Inflation, Productivity Loss & Quality Issues

Johnson: Training Or Wage Inflation, Productivity Loss & Quality Issues
June 19
01:38 2017

Wage inflation, reduced productivity and quality problems are what is going to happen if the fastener industry fails to train replacements for retiring Baby Boomers, Phil Johnson, CEO of ContMidGroup, told the Fastener Industry Summit.

Johnson – president of the Fastener Education Foundation – cited statistics projecting three million job openings in the next decade, with two million going unfilled.

“We have to have an answer,” Johnson said. “Where do your next cold header operators come from?  We all have the same problem.”

A major answer may be training programs FEF seeks to fund.

Thus far FEF funding includes $25,000 to the Fastener Training Institute to develop online training; $5,000 for the Fastener Summit and a $25,000 grant to Rock Valley College.

In addition to money donations, FEF has sought donations of machinery, tooling, wire and talent for training.  An early donation was a cold header from Nakashimada Engineering Works Ltd. to the college.

In a Fastener Industry Summit session entitled “The War for Talent: Preparing the Fastener Industry for the Future,” in conjunction with FastenerTech 2017, Johnson got into the fastener industry in a co-op program leading to a warehouse job and then sales.

FEF was founded four years ago as a 501c3 non-profit to encourage and fund training. Donations to FEF are tax-deductible.

In the past, some OEMs provided training for distributors, but that is rare now so distributors “need to provide their own training,” Johnson observed.

He advocated fastener manufacturers participate in the annual Manufacturing Day with open houses for high school students. The next event will be October 6, 2017. Web:

“We are not talking bad jobs,” Johnson said of work in fastener manufacturing plants. Web:

Laurence Claus
of the Fastener Training Institute cited estimates that 10,000 Baby Boomers are retiring daily.

The current generation grew up thinking that manufacturing was “dirty, dead end and not for you,” Claus explained. Now instead of competing with other fastener manufacturers for workers, “our competition is Best Buy and Starbucks,” Claus suggested.

Claus said employee retention is important: “A lot of money is spent to train employees.”

Untrained employees increase the risk of mistakes and unsafe work habits, decreased production, discontented employees and lost customers, Claus said.

Fastener companies must start recruiting in junior high schools and among veterans. After recruiting, Claus termed “on-the-job training is critical.”

The fastener industry must recognize training as “a strategic issue,” Claus urged. He cited a CEO being asked, “What about training an employee who might leave?” The CEO responded, “What happens if we don’t train and they stay?”

Jo Morris of the Fastener Training Institute said they now have 24 online courses, 12 webinars and an on-demand library. FTI can provide customized and onsite classes for companies and fastener associations.

Every seminar has a quiz and employers can track quiz results, Morris noted.

“What training do you want? What training does your customer want?” she asked. Web:

Bernie Luecke
of the Rock Valley College Cold Forming Training Center narrated Rockford’s development into being the center of U.S. fastener manufacturing.

It started with Swedish immigrants building furniture with wooden fasteners. The furniture business went elsewhere, but the fastener industry grew. By 1967, the five largest U.S. fastener manufacturers were in Rockford, Luecke said.

But now Rockford has a “lack of trained header operators.”

Rock Valley College COO James Ryan called for high schools to prepare students to be “job ready,” rather than just “college ready.”

“Job ready” should include courses such as blue print reading, Luecke suggested.

The college now offers a 12-week cold forming training program for individuals interested in becoming cold heading operators and companies who want additional training for current employees.  Rock Valley has its first five graduates. Web:

Dave Booker, who has more than 40-years of cold forming experience and teaches the subject at Rock Valley, noted the program includes small classroom size and hands-on training and covers entry-level skills such as shop math, blueprint reading and machinery setup and operating.

Training partners include the National Institute for Metalworking Skills, Loomis International, Slidematic, Wiretech, Fastenal and Nakashimada. Web:

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