To address labor gaps, customer demands and ongoing disruption, companies are turning to highly effective out-of-the-box ideas to bolster their workforces. As a result, strategic training programs and partnerships are forming within communities to cultivate the specific workforce required. For Alex, Brody, Cai and Evan of Valley View High School (Germantown, Ohio), a recent partnership – known as the Collaborative Change Partnership – is making a world of difference.
Spearheaded by Springfield, Ohio’s The Abilities Connection (TAC) and facilitated by the Strategic Ohio Council for Higher Education (SOCHE) out of Beavercreek, Ohio, these students are part of the Bridging Abilities work program. Geared towards students with disabilities and other barriers that are seeking to hone employment skills without leaving the classroom, this education model provides training for students, while letting them earn a paycheck and preparing them for life beyond the classroom. Michael R. Baker, TAC’s Transition Coordinator, confirms, “The main focus of Bridging Abilities is to knock down barriers, and one of the best ways to do that is through employment.”
Passionate about helping people and local manufacturers succeed, the Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), FastLane (Dayton, Ohio) was engaged in the partnership to help reach out to companies in the Greater Dayton Region that might be interested in participating in the program. Through this, Yaskawa America Inc. – Motoman Robotics Division (Yaskawa Motoman) was contacted.
“Being a part of the Collaborative Change Partnership seemed like a logical next step,” mentions Shannon Oyler, Yaskawa’s HR Generalist. “We’ve had good success with high school interns in the past, and this provided a way to broaden our workforce community while addressing the skills gap that is prevalent today.” Giving TAC, SOCHE and FastLane the green light to proceed, the students were vetted and hired, being matched specifically to the job Yaskawa Motoman had to offer.
Supervised by Valley View’s dedicated Intervention Specialist, Michele Hodson, the four students hired by Yaskawa Motoman work on-site at their high school one shift per day, which is equivalent to one class period. Currently, this time serves to assemble fuse holders. From screwdriving and snapping parts together, to placing informational stickers where needed, each student works independently to create an entire part before starting on the next. “It’s like putting together LEGO bricks,” offers Cai. Once parts are assembled and complete, a quality check takes place by the Yaskawa receiving team, reassuring each part can be moved into usable stock. If an inspection reveals an anomaly, the part is flagged and feedback is given to the students via the Bridging Abilities leaders.
“Hiring these students is a win-win,” offers Mike Stava, Yaskawa’s Sr. Director of Operations. “Not only do bright, motivated high school students get the opportunity to work in manufacturing and gain real-world experience, but also, our organization can effectively increase our labor capacity by outsourcing the selected parts.” Long term, this model will help Yaskawa Motoman reduce overtime and provide a better work-life balance in the department this is normally responsible for producing the assemblies.
Started after the COVID-19 pandemic, this program is, “life impacting,” according to Valley View High School Principal, Patrick McKee. In addition, Intervention Specialist, Michele Hodson confirms, “this model provides broad opportunities the students are quite capable of doing, and it helps diversify their skills for a brighter future.” On the flip side, when the students were asked, “What is the best part about this job?” Brody responded, “Trying something new.”
Along with the benefit of developing new skills, Mr. Baker from TAC confirms that the Bridging Abilities model provides positive outcomes in a variety of ways:
- Students – while fulfilling strategic Individualized Education Plan (IEP) goals, this program helps to personally empower students, and it provides a good transition between high school and employment opportunities after graduation.
- Teachers – this program is an encouragement to educators, and it helps them to see individual student strengths and skills in relation to work.
- Parents – this model boosts confidence and morale in relation to individual student skills and overall abilities, providing parents with a more positive outlook for their child’s future.
- Companies – while addressing the skills gap and diversifying the workforce, this program enables organizations to increase capacity to meet on-time delivery.
Looking ahead, as the assembly of fuse holders progresses, Yaskawa hopes to add work opportunities for board assembly and interface assembly to the program, enabling more students to thrive. Moreover, it is the hope of all organizations involved with the Collaborative Change Partnership that more manufacturers will see the value in programs, like Bridging Abilities, and open their doors to more talented high school students in the near future.
To learn about The Abilities Connection and their Bridging Abilities program, please visit: www.tacind.com
Sarah Mellish is a Marketing Content Specialist