Earlier this year, 22-year-old Sedric Hamer knew he needed to make a change.
“I was just jumping from warehouse to warehouse,” said Hamer. “I knew I wanted to make a change and take a leap of faith.”
Hamer signed up for machining classes at Southwest Tennessee Community College. The training was free, part of the MOVEHIRE (Medical Device Occupations Value Education and Help in the Regional Economy) grant, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor and administered locally through the Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce (GMACW).
“The grant provides a chance for people to get the skills they need to land a good-paying job in the medical device or advanced manufacturing fields,” said GMACW Executive Director Alan Gumbel. “To date, more than 800 people have taken advantage of the free training, many of them landing jobs with Onix Medical, Smith+Nephew, Eversana and similar large companies.”
Hamer is now a machinist at Onix Medical making good pay. He says he has come a long way but he is never done learning.
“The job is great. I’m still learning everyday,” said Hamer. “I go to work to learn and to grow. That is what I really enjoy.”
Right now, Arkansas State University, Tennessee College of Applied Technology, Moore Tech and Southwest are all offering these training programs. Hamer credits Southwest’s MOVEHIRE program coordinator, Belinda Looney with helping to get him on the right track.
“It’s very rewarding,” said Looney. “Some of the students that come in were unemployed and they are putting their trust in you to help them get off on the right foot and change things.”
“They give it their all and get good paying careers. It is great to know they are not out there unemployed anymore. One young lady told me it was the first time she had ever had health benefits. It makes me feel good to know I helped them make a difference in their life.”
The program was so impactful for Hamer, his brother, Sam, also took part right after he did and is now employed with Pandrol USA.
In cooperation with GMACWorkforce and HopeWorks, nine area businesses joined together to participate in the Mid-South Employer Resource Network (MSERN) initiative. The employer-based model joins an association of small- to mid-size businesses to provide job retention services, work support and training opportunities for employees. Participating companies share the resources and expense of building the skills and capacities of employees who are often times lower-skilled. Employee participation in MSERN services is voluntary.
The primary focus of MSERN is job retention of the existing workforce with a strong emphasis on skills building and advancement. MSERN also assists employees with a wide range of personal issues that may affect job performance. These issues range from home repair to transportation. The program embeds a Success Coach within companies to help build relationships among employees, local social service agencies, and area nonprofits in order to expand the range of employee resources.
In the first 30-days of operation, the MSERN Success Coach was engaged more than 70 times by program participants for issues ranging from child care and financial literacy assistance to government agency navigation to legal assistance.
For more information regarding the MSERN program, please contact Mr. John Churchill (firstname.lastname@example.org) or 901.614.1099.
Each year the Center for Economic Research in Tennessee puts together its Labor and Education Alignment Program report detailing which jobs are most in demand statewide and for each of the state’s nine economic and community development regions.
The report found 111 occupations with high employer demand in the Greater Memphis area, including information technology (IT), health care, engineering, business and financial operations, and transportation and material moving.
“Welders are in high demand in seven of the state’s regions, including Greater Memphis,” said CERT director Sally H. Avery. “The employment concentration of welders in the Greater Memphis region is 57 percent below the national average. Welding programs offered at higher education institutions are critical for the development of this workforce.”
The 2017 Labor and Education Alignment Program, or LEAP report notes that the average wage for machinists is nearly $45,000 in Memphis, more than 8 percent higher than the national average. Machinists are especially in demand in medical device manufacturing and advanced and general manufacturing.
“Obviously forklift drivers and warehouse workers will always be in high demand in Memphis because the city is a distribution hub,” said John Churchill, vice president of business services for the Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce, adding those living-wage jobs average about $15 an hour.
GMACW, the workforce arm of the Economic Development Growth Engine of Memphis and Shelby County, did its own study in 2016 of jobs that are in the highest demand in the Mid-South.
Churchill expects all aspects of IT and the technical side of manufacturing to remain in demand.
“As manufacturing comes back into the United States from overseas, Memphis is a fairly popular place where not only existing companies are expanding, but new companies are coming in,” Churchill said. “What they’re looking for are individuals who can perform some of the higher tech jobs like multi-craft or maintenance.”
In the 1980s, there were more skilled technicians available locally to fill high-demand manufacturing jobs, but as Memphis became more of a logistics and distribution hub those workers became more scarce.
“When you talk about other high demand areas, one that comes to mind is the medical field,” Churchill said.
Nearly all medical field positions are expected to stay in high demand for the foreseeable future, according to Avery.
“As more and more of the baby-boomer generation reach retirement age, the need for health care workers will continue to grow,” Avery said. “The health care industry is a unique strength of the Greater Memphis region – from facilities to schools.”
One low-tech position that remains in high demand is truck driver.
“It would not take you very long – six to 12 weeks – to learn how to drive a truck, but within months you could be making a good living, whether you are driving local or long distance,” Churchill said. “The ratio for the amount of training that it takes to become skilled, or get your license, versus how much you can make is a pretty good ratio.”
Interestingly, despite the fact that people are banking more online and branches are smaller, bank teller ranked as the No. 4 fastest-growing job for the Memphis region.
“The responsibilities of tellers may be shifting, but not disappearing,” Avery said. “Banking institutions in Memphis are performing well. Local deposits at banks in the Memphis MSA grew by 23.2 percent from 2011 to 2016, surpassing the growth rate for local deposits in Tennessee of 18.5 percent.”
She points out that “bank teller” actually includes many different job titles, including account representatives, bank tellers, customer relationship specialists, customer service associates, customer service representatives, member services representative, personal banking representatives, roving tellers and teller coordinators.
While many occupation categories detailed in the LEAP report have substantial openings, some like translators/interpreters showed up with large percentage gains but have little impact on the job pool overall locally.
“What happens with new and emerging occupations is their growth will appear large, but not generate many jobs,” said University of Memphis professor of economics Dr. John E. Gnuschke, director of the Sparks Bureau of Business and Economic Research and the Center for Manpower Studies. “Many of the other occupations are so small (like translator/interpreter jobs) and selective they have limited impact on a large labor market like Memphis or the training that can be provided.”
On Wednesday, October 25, led by the Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce (GMACWorkforce) and the Greater Memphis Chamber, more than 25 private companies met with representatives from Shelby County Schools and several municipal school districts to discuss how the two groups can work together to improve and support career readiness in education. Keynote speaker, State Representative Mark White (R-83), discussed the State of Tennessee’s efforts to attract more business to the Greater Memphis Region and how an improved pipeline of highly educated and well-trained citizens is critical to that effort. Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson discussed strategies for coordinating industry sectors and clusters in Shelby County Schools’ Career and Technical Education Centers.
The participating organizations joined in lively roundtable discussions to learn how schools and businesses can work together to create valuable partnerships. “K-12 schools cannot be successful without community business involvement, parents, and the greater community at large,” said John Churchill, GMACWorkforce Vice President, Business Services. “At GMACWorkforce, we will track and measure the effectiveness of these relationships and share our findings with each other.”
Funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, MOVE-HIRE is a tuition free skills training program, providing industry recognized credentials, and work-based learning opportunities, including apprenticeships, on the job training, and internships to prepare participants for careers in the medical device industry. Through its partnership with the Workforce Investment Network, the MOVE-HIRE program identified the following number of people interested in careers within the medical device industry.
• Engineers: 166
• Packagers: 116
• Logistics Technicians: 112
• Quality Assurance:114
• Metal Finishers: 51
• Pre-Apprentice Machinists: 94
These individuals will be placed with MOVE-HIRE educational regional training partners to work towards certification and career placement.
Building a Stronger Workforce GMACWorkforce aligns with EDGE
In April 2017, the Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE) Board of Directors voted unanimously to accept the Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce’s (GMACWorkforce) proposal to align itself with EDGE. GMACWorkforce will join the Memphis and Shelby County Port Commission, the Depot Redevelopment Corporation, the Industrial Development Board, and Foreign Trade Zone 77 as entities managed and supported by EDGE. “In today’s world, workforce development is one of, if not the most critical factor in the community’s long-term economic vitality and the financial success of our citizens,” noted Willie Gregory, GMACWorkforce’s original Board Chairman and Director for Sustainable Business and Innovation for Nike. “I’m proud of all that GMACWorkforce has accomplished, particularly in such a short amount of time. As we were building the program, it became increasingly obvious that GMACWorkforce would be even more effective if we could align ourselves with a major economic development organization on the front lines of advancing the City and County’s economy. EDGE will be an excellent partner,” said Mr. Gregory. The GMACWorkforce alignment with EDGE will further strengthen the connection between the region’s workforce and economic development efforts and better link local residents to good paying jobs. “Economic development depends heavily on the workforce and the availability of that workforce. If our citizens aren’t trained for the jobs we provide for the community, their quality of life is severely impacted, as well as the companies we attract,” said EDGE Board Member, Cary Vaughn. “As an economic development organization, we are largely dependent on the success of our workforce partner. With EDGE working in tandem with GMACWorkforce, we are approaching economic development from a regional collective perspective and helping our core mission.” Created in late 2014 as a priority initiative of the Memphis and Shelby County Regional Economic Development Plan, which was administered by EDGE and prepared in collaboration with the Washington, DC-based Brookings Institution Policy Program, and the Greater Memphis Chamber Chairman’s Circle, GMACWorkforce’s mission is to close the skills gap by driving better alignment of training and education programs with employers’ long-term skill requirements along with delivering innovative new strategies and tools to help local citizens successfully navigate career pathways.
MEMPHIS, Tenn (November 21, 2016) – The Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce (GMACWorkforce) was awarded $6 million from the US Department of Labor through the America’s Promise Grant Competition. The winners were announced Thursday, November 17, 2016.
In the Memphis region, GMACWorkforce will administer the MOVE-HIRE Project. MOVEHIRE—an acronym for Medical device Occupations Value Education and Help In the Regional Economy—will focus on low-income and under-represented individuals over a four-year period and will address the lack of skilled manufacturing workers in the Memphis MSA. The project involves a strategic partnership of manufacturing industry leaders, training providers and workforce agencies that have committed to providing education, training, support services, and job placement assistance for more than 1,000 adults, and will help meet the demand for jobs in the regional medical device manufacturing sector.
According to industry leaders of the Greater Memphis Medical Device Council, the lack of skilled manufacturing workers is impacting their productivity and has hindered their ability to expand and grow. The lack of a qualified manufacturing workforce also greatly impacts the region’s ability to attract new manufacturing companies and suppliers to the area.
“The America’s Promise grant is a significant milestone in our organization’s short tenure and falls in line with our core mission as a workforce intermediary to help facilitate strategic partnerships that gives our regional workforce access to better jobs and opportunities,” said Dr. Glen Fenter, president, GMACWorkforce.
As part of the requirement for the America’s Promise grant, GMACWorkforce worked with industry and education leaders to create career pathways in advanced manufacturing for participants to advance their training and education to secure future, higher-paying jobs and careers in fields that are currently occupied by H-1B visa workers.
The grant will be led Pauline Vernon, Vice President, Workforce Systems Alignment, GMACWorkforce, and implemented by the following training and educational providers: University of Memphis, Arkansas State University Mid-South, Southwest Tennessee Community College, Tennessee College of Applied Technology, and William R. Moore College of Technology. Employer and workforce support will be provided by: Greater Memphis Medical Device Council, Greater Memphis Chamber, Bartlett Area Chamber of Commerce, Workforce Investment Network, Memphis Bioworks Foundation, and Workbay LLC.
“I am very excited to lead the MOVE-HIRE Project on behalf of GMACWorkforce and our regional partners, said Pauline Vernon. “The medical device industry is growing in this region and we need to be prepared to attract and retain great companies with a highly-skilled workforce.” Dr. Fenter added, “Pauline’s experience in employment-education alignment programs and facilitating strategic partnerships played a major role in securing this grant and will greatly impact our efforts to expand the medical device sector. I am confident that we will meet and exceed all project expectations.”
“This is exactly the kind of work that we created GMACWorkforce to facilitate, said Willie Gregory, GMACWorkforce Board Chair and Director of Global Community Impact for Nike. “We are very excited to help grow this extremely important sector in our regional economy.”
For more information: https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/eta/eta20161117
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