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'A perfect match': High-level certification building better workers

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JAMES P. LEUTE
February 7, 2009
— Working harder isn’t the only way to improve performance.

Sometimes, workers have to get the bigger picture and learn how the safety of those around them affects their job.


And how maintenance can help the process run more smoothly.


Corina Bray, always a stickler for quality, now understands how those elements complement the manufacturing of automotive sensors and gauges at SSI Technologies in Janesville.


That’s because Bray is one of the first local workers credentialed as a Certified Production Technician by the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council.


Bray and 15 other local workers were recognized Friday for completing the intensive program that covers separate modules on safety, quality, manufacturing processes and maintenance awareness.


MSSC is an industry-led training, assessment and certification system focused on the core skills and knowledge needed by the nation’s production workers. The system offers both entry-level and incumbent workers the opportunity to demonstrate that they have mastered the skills needed in the high-growth, technology-intensive jobs of the 21st century.


“In Wisconsin, manufacturing is our lifeline,” said Roberta Gassman, secretary of the state’s Department of Workforce Development. “It always has been and always will be, but it’s becoming highly skilled.”


That’s why continuing education and the MSSC program in particular are so important, she said.


“MSSC helps you; it helps your businesses, and it helps the state,” Gassman said Friday at Blackhawk Technical College, the home base for the national program in this part of the state.


Bray and fellow graduate Roberto Segovia agree.


Both said that the program is paying immediate dividends at their workplaces. And while neither is looking for a job, the MSSC certification certainly makes them more marketable.


Segovia said MSSC helped him improve his skills and learn new ones that have daily applications at his job at American Aluminum Extrusion in Beloit.


“This program has given me so much more insight into what’s going on around me on the floor,” Segovia said. “Every single manufacturer in this area needs to get involved in this program.”


Right now, only a handful of companies have thrown their support—and employees—into the MSSC program.


Nine of the first 16 graduates are SSI employees. Another SSI employee soon will pass all four modules, and eight others are just starting their studies.


“We’re a small company, and training is essential, but we don’t have the resources to create this type of training,” said Dave Rowley, SSI’s operations director. “We operate in highly competitive markets, and our success depends on the skills sets of our employees, their core competencies and continuous improvement.


“To us, MSSC is a perfect match.”


Funding for the first year of MSSC came from a U.S. Department of Labor grant secured through a collaborative effort of General Motors, United Auto Workers, DWD and BTC.


Despite federal and state budget constraints, Gassman said she is committed to continued funding for the program.


“Training and education are critical right now,” she said.



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