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|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 5, 2012
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U.S. Premiere of New Virtual Reality Training Platform Helps Tampa Bay Manufacturer Meet Workforce Needs
A new Florida MEP training program uses virtual reality to train unemployed workers for hard-to-fill manufacturing jobs
LARGO, FL – A Tampa Bay area manufacturer has become the first American company to hire workers who have been trained for CNC machining jobs through TechPoint®, a new virtual reality training program. Through a US Department of Labor grant, Florida MEP has introduced the use of this training in order to address the shortage of skilled workers confronting many manufacturers.
The new technology was developed by Metal Essence, a Longwood-based manufacturer, in collaboration with Mathematisch Technische Software, a German technology company.
“This week we’re proud to graduate 11 unemployed individuals, five of them veterans, in the first class of workers in the U.S. to be trained on the innovative TechPoint® training platform,” said Dick Peck, chairman of the Florida MEP.
“This new training tool has the ability to revolutionize the way we train CNC machine operators. By employing virtual reality software, the platform allows us to develop a highly customized training curriculum that can simulate the operations the trainees will perform on the shop floor. We believe that we can save manufacturers thousands of dollars in training costs by using this new tool to give trainees the hands-on skills through virtual experience.”
Largo-based Graingeco specializes in precision machining for a variety of defense, aerospace and civilian customers. Experiencing a strong growth in demand for its products, the company recognized the need to significantly expand its workforce but was constrained by a shortage of skilled workers in the region. When Florida MEP approached the company about becoming the first manufacturer in the country to train job applicants on the TechPoint® platform, the company readily agreed.
“Florida MEP’s new training program has far exceeded our expectations. The project team rapidly developed a customized curriculum to meet our workforce needs and then began an aggressive recruitment campaign to help us find job applicants for the TechPoint®training program. In a matter of weeks, they’ve implemented a training program that would have taken us months to develop and tens of thousands of dollars in additional costs. Best of all, they’ve done it at no charge to the company, allowing us to ramp up production in a very cost-efficient manner,” said Kim Grainger, the owner and CEO of Graingeco.
TechPoint® training uses highly sophisticated virtual reality software. Unlike typical simulators that only demonstrate a series of functions, TechPoint® allows trainees to design a machine part, enter the correct codes and test the part virtually on the latest models of computer numeric-controlled (CNC) equipment. The TechPoint® software contains thousands of adjustable tools and, most importantly, offers a collision avoidance feature that alerts trainees to incorrectly written code that would damage an actual CNC machine.
“Machine shop equipment collisions result in thousands of dollars in repairs and weeks of downtime, which is why properly trained operators are essential in manufacturing. No other software in the United States can provide this level of simulated reality or so effectively teach trainees how to operate CNC equipment,” said Florida MEP’s Peck.
The training program is designed to provide an integrated range of services to an employer and encompasses far more than state-of-the-art software.
The Florida MEP project team begins by working with a company to identify hiring needs and developing a customized training curriculum. The team then identifies and screens qualified job applicants, puts the applicants through the intensive 80-hour customized training program that includes training on the TechPoint® platform, and works with the employer to develop an eight-week on-the-job training program. The training program is completed by a four-month cross-training and career guidance phase that helps ensure high employee retention rate and provides trainees with a foundation for advancement in the company.
“Florida MEP has been a valuable training partner for our company,” said Peter Worley, Graingeco’s director of quality. “The customized curriculum included valuable topics such as lean-to-green manufacturing, blueprint reading, and quality management, as well as specialized skills such as precision measurement to very tight tolerances. We’ve been very pleased with the quality of training and have every intention of engaging Florida MEP on additional projects once the TechPoint® training is complete.”
About Florida MEP:
The Florida MEP is an affiliate of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) under the U.S. Department of Commerce. The national MEP is a network of manufacturing extension centers that provide business and technical assistance to smaller manufacturers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Through MEP, manufacturers have access to more than 2000 manufacturing and business “coaches” whose job is to help firms make changes that lead to greater productivity, increased profits, and enhanced global competitiveness.
Florida Manufacturing Extension Partnership does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, national or ethnic origin, gender, disability, age, political affiliation or belief. This nondiscrimination policy encompasses the operation of all educational and training programs and activities. It also encompasses the employment of personnel and contracting for goods and services.