Expansion and growth are the lifeblood of any manufacturing company. So, despite a tight labor market, investments are made and additional capacity is built.
This is certainly the case for GE Appliances (GEA), a Haier company, who in October of 2018 announced it was investing $200 million to expand its dishwasher and laundry manufacturing facilities in Louisville, Kentucky.
The expansion will create 400 jobs in addition to the 6,000 already employed at Appliance Park..
While that is excellent news for the industry, the city and the company, finding workers in an already tight labor market will require some clever programs. Luckily workforce innovation is in GE’s DNA.
In 2017 the company was an anchor for a Jefferson County Public Schools program called Learning Academies which was offered in high schools. The program started with 11 high schools and is now up to 14. And the program currently has 85 business partners.
In this program, every student receives a personalized experience within a small learning community; participates in hands-on, project-based learning; and develops 21st-century essential skills. After four years in an academy, graduates will have participated in summer employment, job shadowing experience, and senior-year apprenticeships and the ability. to earn industry credentials or college credits. Students leave with a postsecondary transition plan.
Another program that GE Appliances is involved in is called the region is the Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (KY FAME). It’s a partnership of regional manufacturers whose purpose is to implement dual track, apprenticeship-style training that will create a pipeline of highly skilled workers. The primary method to achieve this goal is through partnerships with local educational institutions to offer the Advanced Manufacturing Technician Program.
Building upon the success of those programs, GEA introduced a couple more workforce programs. And one is especially high-tech. At Doss High School, which is part of the Academies program, students will be able to take a virtual tour of GE Appliances in March of 2019 and have a live web chat with employees who currently work at GEA. Students will be able to ask employees about career opportunities, job responsibilities and the education and experience students need to apply for these jobs in the future.
As part of the virtual classroom initiative, GEA is also aligning the program with the JCPS Backpack of Success Skills initiative. Students will be given a real-world manufacturing problem to solve for GE Appliances. The top students will present their projects to a panel of GEA executives.
“We are in the weeds when it comes to specific programs at the high school level,” said Tom Quick, vice president of human resources for GEA. “And at the community college level, we want to make sure that those high school students have access to these programs. Having them in the same building is important to forge a career path as not everyone has a desire to continue to four-year colleges. Having exposure to the jobs available in manufacturing at this stage could steer them toward the field.”
Quick also envisions a point where the program, with its certifications, will attract adults in the community who might be looking for a different career.
Viewing the potential workforce from a broader scope is how Eric Leef, human resource manager for supply chain at GEA looks at talent development. “We have found that if you have a 360 approach to acquiring talent, it’s optimal. We have to look at everyone, and remember that some people have never considered manufacturing as a career.”