Developing machining skills
There is a joint venture that has been developing over the last couple of years called NIMS (National Institute for Metalworking Skills) that deserves some significant recognition. This apprenticeship program has been put together by 4 eastern Wisconsin companies including KLH Industries, ToolCraft, Integrity Wire EDM and Versevo that have combined their knowledge base with Waukesha County Technical College to create skills based apprenticeship programs that are in high demand in this area.
The previous apprenticeship model, established in 1911, combined theory learning with a minimum hourly requirement of on-the-job training. For example, the machinist apprenticeship required 8,320 hours of on the job training spread across 9 categories. The assumption was that time breeds competency. Aside from the basic category description, there were no defined requirements or field tests.
Under the new NIMS model, time is irrelevant. Each NIMS apprenticeship consists of specific skill requirements or credentials which are categorized as beginner (Level 1), Intermediate (Level2) and Advanced (Level 3).
Each credential can be taken as part of the apprenticeship program or as a stand alone certificate. The credentials are designed to be modular, meaning employers can select the skills that are relevant to their line of work.
To graduate as a NIMS certified apprentice, the students must complete the credentials for all three levels.
One of the biggest local supporters of NIMS is Kenneth Heins, CEO at KLH Industries, a precision machining company Germantown, WI. Heins has served on the State Machine Tool Apprenticeship Advisory Committee (SMTAAC) for 16 years and is the apprenticeship chair for the NIMS program.
“Manufacturing is all about doing things better and quicker than you did yesterday”, says Heins. That’s what NIMS is to me. A better, quicker way to produce skilled manufacturing labor in our state”. The apprentices learn on the same type of machines that are common in today’s machine shops. The skills learned are immediately transferable to the workplace”. That is skilled manufacturing right here in our backyard.