It isn’t always that you are picked up at the airport and chauffeured around all day for a CNC West Magazine interview. In fact, this was a first. Tim Schaefer has spent a lifetime in the manufacturing business and was kind enough to put together a day of interviews and enlightenment. As a a metal working specialist for MSC Industrial, Tim is part of their advanced technical support team, but today he is also Director of Training for SVMA (Sacramento Valley Manufacturing Alliance) and a tour guide. Besides his vast knowledge of all things machining, Tim’s knowledge of the area and the history of its manufacturing is unparalleled. You will not find a more educational experience than spending the day going from shop to shop with Tim. Every SVMA member shared their passion for the industry, and the desire to build a better organization that will benefit all those in the valley for years to come. With nearly 50 allied members and growing the SVMA mentality truly is that a rising tide lifts all boats.
SVMA offers many standard membership benefits that you would find in similar organizations. Networking opportunities, shared database of vendors, volume purchasing agreements and so forth are all pretty standard, but what everyone we met with was most interested in was SVMA’s workforce development. SVMA has partnerships with the local high schools and colleges, but also have their own technical learning center on the campus of Charles A Jones Education Center. Equipped with manual and CNC mills and lathes the learning center is an intricate part of SVMA’s US Department of Labor accredited apprenticeship program.
SVMA’s apprenticeship program is not based on number of years in the trade or where you have worked, but solely on what you can do, a 100% competency-based program. There is a very specific and difficult written and verbal online assessment test used to determine a participant’s skill level. There are 8 different levels, with 8 being the most skilled. Upon completion of level 8 students earn a CNC credential. It isn’t a milling program or a turning program, level 8 graduates are familiar with both. After six months of employment at a member’s facility level 8 graduates will earn a set wage of $33 an hour.
SVMA’s apprenticeship program is not designed to replace trade schools or college programs, but rather to integrate with them for fast tracking people into the workplace. “Our program teaches the skillset that manufacturers are looking for,” tells Tim. “We build that into our curriculum and help educate the educators on what the industry needs. If we need a CNC programming course and a Community College has a spot, we place people into the class. If nothing is available, we get together as an organization and do a workshop with one of our experts.” SVMA’s apprenticeship program isn’t just designed for people with zero experience. It’s about teaching a baseline set of skills that someone already working in the industry might not possess. Garner Products for example sent two of their employees through the pilot program, InSight Manufacturing Services hired someone from the pre apprenticeship program and Ruxco Engineering Inc. is hopeful that the vetted SVMA graduates will reduce the need to teach basic skills as part of their onboarding process.
Inspired by manufacturing day October 1st, SVMA had a booth and provided expert speakers at the SME Manufacturing Expo 2021. “This was a great event,” tells SVMA President Kevin McGrew: 51 exhibitors and 375 attendees provided a broad cross section of our region’s manufacturers getting together in a responsible way (outdoors and masked in all info sessions) to commit to the proactive development of persons new to advanced manufacturing. Further, we had the opportunity to invite regional experts to present on topics like cyber security, better usage of virtual resources, a brand-new competency-based apprenticeship program, and the promotion of women in manufacturing. This year has been hard for all of us but with an event like this we can envision our path forward.”
SVMA is organized by and for Sacramento’s manufacturers. As the region’s manufacturers, they are committed to working with educators and industry partners to proactively develop vocational, educational and workforce initiatives and programs leading to fulfilling manufacturing career paths for the region’s students and workforce. To learn more or to be a part of SVMA find them online or flag down Tim when you see him.
Garner Products Inc – Roseville, Ca. based Garner Products design, manufacture, and sell equipment that delivers complete, permanent, and verifiable data elimination. Founded more than 60 years ago, they provide time-tested solutions for permanent data security of working and nonworking hard drives, magnetic tape, and solid-state media.
Garner Products are founding members of SVMA and Michelle Stofan was one of the dozen local business owners who were part of the first exploratory meeting. She sits on the board and is a 100% believer in the power of the organization. “Since day one SVMA has been a benefit to us as a local manufacturing business,” tells Michelle. “We were isolated, living really on our own island. We have an impact globally, our products are known around the world, but we didn’t know our neighbors. Without SVMA we would never have met people like Tim Schaefer, director of training at SVMA. He is a wealth of information about everything. Having a group of like businesses is such a resource, that allow us to share best practice information from automation, machining, general employee policy issues and sources of labor. We can’t wait for the apprenticeship program to get in full swing.” Garner Products believe so much in the SVMA apprenticeship program that they sent their son Justin and another employee through the program. At 28 Justin has been a part of every operation in the company and now is tasked with overseeing the machine shop. The shop consists of a Flow water jet, a Hyundai WIA L 150A with live tooling, Fadal 3020 and 4020 mills, three YCM NXV 1020A mills, Shop Sabre router, and multiple Raise 3D printers.
“Thanks to SVMA we have personal contacts with other CEO’s,” adds Ron Stofan. “Big companies are giving us the time of day, us a 30-person shop. And not only that but answering any questions we have about anything.” “Being able to network in good times is valuable, but even more so when you get things like Covid,” continues Michelle. “We were all able share resources like documents to send to employees, response to our local codes and regulations.”
Labor as we all know is a big problem for everyone. Finding skilled machinists, or young people interested in learning the trade is nearly impossible. “We’ve established so many great relationships with SVMA companies,” concludes Michelle. “If we interview someone and they are a great applicant, but I can’t use them I send their information out to our membership. If I can’t keep them, I want our members to be able to. Our goal is to keep talent local; we’ve got to keep the skilled labor here. We need the skilled to teach the next generation, so the industry doesn’t die. SVMA is an organization with those same goals. We are in competition for the same labor pool, but as members we are trying to work together, not poach, and grow the talent pool in the area. I was a founding member of SVMA, I served three years as treasurer, and now I am on the board and concentrating my efforts on workforce development.”
InSight Manufacturing Services – are a supply chain management and contract manufacturing specialist. They do it all from prototype and engineering support to CNC milling, CNC turning, fabrication, assembly and kitting. Their principal manufacturing center is in the city of Murphys, CA. but today we are at their satellite facility in Rancho Cordova. “Our primary industries are medical and defense,” details Herman Kaiser, VP/COO of InSight. “Our largest customer makes radiation therapy machines. We have for many years provided them with hydroelectric and electromechanical assemblies. The majority of our machining centers are at the Murphys facility where we have a mixture of Hurco and Haas machine tools. We started with the Hurco because of their conversational programming. Not always being able to find employees with the necessary skills, the Hurcos sped up the learning process. We added the Haas line because Selway gives us great support, but now we must train on multiple platforms. We mainly assemble and kit from this location, but a year ago we brought over two Haas CNC mills to machine aluminum castings. Donnie has been with InSight for 16 years and is one of our machine shop supervisors. He is involved with the internal training of employees and came to this location to get everything setup to run the castings.”
InSight is in the process of bringing on board another large contract manufacturing customer and to do so requires building another climate-controlled shop, relocating some of the machines, adding a new horizontal, and hiring more people. They have 25,000sq.ft. at the main facility and two 10,000sq.ft. buildings in Rancho Cordova. “One of the biggest challenges we face as a business is employees,” details Herman. “We have 52 now and could use more, and many more as the new program ramps up. Right now, it is all about people for us and others in this industry, specifically getting people trained. We participated in the pre-apprenticeship program. I was impressed with how they were able to take someone with no CNC background and make them a viable employee after a 90-hour program. They are by no means a journeyman machinist, but they can operate the machines safely, and at a minimum we know what skills they possess. We donated a couple of our older Hurco mills to SVMA’s manufacturing lab, anything we can do to help get more people into this as a career. It is important that people get trained on technology that is relevant to the industry. Being a board member with SVMA lets me connect with people like Tim who are passionate about growing the local industry. InSight are SVMA members and share that passion. Leveraging every resource available to us through the organization.”
RUXCO ENGINEERING INC. is a fourth-generation family run business servicing the aerospace and defense industries in Diamond Springs Ca. For over 40 years, their reputation stems from machining high complexity, tight tolerance parts with the latest technologies and equipment. “Michael Jr. does all of the programming,” tells father, president and CEO Michael Sr. “He is the one that keeps us on the cutting edge. Most everything we do is satellite or aircraft related and manufactured from Invar, titanium, stainless or aluminum.” Ruxco has a mix of 20+ CNC machine tools. Their shop is packed in with Haas, Kitamura, DMG Mori, and Sodick. They have 3 and 4 axis milling, advanced 5 axis milling, standard lathes, live tooling lathes, a wire EDM machine, and they inspect with a new Zeiss Contura CMM.
“We are part of SVMA for the future of this company and the future of the industry,” explains Michael Jr. VP at Ruxco. “It is hard to find people that want to work, let alone skilled people who want to work. SVMA’s apprenticeship program allows us to filter out potential employees without putting anything in our shop at risk. We don’t have to rely on what they tell us to be true and let them loose on our DMGs. We know anyone coming out of the apprenticeship program as a level 8 graduate that they are at a certain level of competency. The apprenticeship program gives SVMA members confidence that the person we are letting in our businesses is equipped to do a job. It’s arduous for us to invest the time to teach someone basic skills only for them to be here 6 months and ghost us. The men and women going through SVMA’s apprenticeship program want to be there. They are investing in themselves and their future. SVMA is quite an opportunity for companies in our area. Tim approached us about SVMA and we were sold on it without question.” “We operate with 17 people now and would have another full shift running if we could hire enough qualified workers,” adds Michael Sr. “We have high hopes that this program is going to add to the local talent pool.”