I’m not sure what attracted so much attention to my article on the nine Connecticut plating shops that forged a partnership to help ensure a reliable workforce in the future.

Was it the ingenuity and practicality of the venture? The shops are working with their state to develop a 40-hour training course designed to attract — and retain, mind you — qualified, knowledgeable, and skilled workers for the finishing industry. And free to the worker who takes the course, with a guaranteed job.

Or was it that shops decided to work together in unison to solve an issue perplexing all of them, and not just in the small part of Connecticut? Workforce issues are facing nearly all finishers and coaters from coast to coast.

Getting competing shops — especially ones sitting within miles of each other — to cooperate has been a difficult task in the past, which is one reason so many local chapters of associations have struggled over the years. Many shops feel like the shop across town is their competitor, forcing down prices and narrowing margins as they often bid against one another for the same job.

That’s why it was so surprising when the nine shops — Metal Finishing Technologies, UniMetal Surface Finishing, Summit Plating, American Electro Products, Waterbury Plating, Bass Plating, Har-Conn Metal Finishing, Whyco Finishing Technologies, and Pape Electroplating — announced they came together last summer to start a program called Master Electroplating Through Applied Learning, or METAL.

The course —again, free to students— will be 40 hours of classroom and hands-on training and a job guaranteed at the successful end of the course. This program's impetus is that shops involved in the METAL program need workers desperately to keep their operations running smoothly. Another big part is that they are probably tired of competing with one another for workers; you can easily hear that an employee of one plating shop thinks he can get a better offer from another plating shop across town, so inquire and see if they can get a better paying gig.

“It was important for us to create this now,” says George LaCapra Jr., President of UniMetal Surface Finishing. “The market needs skilled workers, and people are looking for ways to grow in their careers. The skills offered through this class are highly transferable and offer a career filled with technical growth in a fascinating, highly stable industry few know about.”

The Northwest Regional Workforce Investment Board is administering the program, and classes are expected to start this spring. If this all works, it should be duplicated throughout the U.S. Shops in Chicago, Michigan, Los Angeles, Houston, and parts in between should adopt this.

Surprisingly, none of these ideas came from the national associations. But maybe not surprisingly. Who at these national offices would push this program to satisfy the shops, set aside grievances, and work together? Who would lead the project? No one, because those associations aren’t cut out for this, especially regarding leading shops. It is not their concern right now.

We wish the Connecticut 9 good luck, and we hope this will become very successful. Then, it can be tried across the U.S. Who says you need a national association when you have an ally across town?

Tim Pennington, Editor-in-chief

TPennington 3Tim Pennington is Editor-in-Chief of Finishing and Coating, and has covered the industry since 2010. He has traveled extensively throughout North America visiting shops and production facilities, and meeting those who work in the industry. Tim began his career in the newspaper industry, then wound itself between the sports field with the PGA Tour and marketing and communications firms, and finally back into the publishing world in the finishing and coating sector. If you want to reach Tim, just go here.

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