Striving towards a trained workforce

Putting untrained personnel at the operation of expensive plant equipment can be both dangerous and costly. It’s time for employers to have more open dialogue about training, says Roy Parlane, managing director at Prosoft.

Accessible, equal opportunity

A lack of tutors, resources and infrastructure has meant that certification in computer aided manufacturing (CAM) in New Zealand has been difficult in the past.

“We are asking people to become CNC operators. It is one thing to understand the technology and talk in the terms, but to be able to get a certification you need to have a higher level of capability,” says Parlane.

“And that is not widely doable in New Zealand particularly, not taking a proactive approach to this means we are being left behind the world for those skillsets.”

The introduction of a new and improved certification for CAM has been needed. Enter Mastercam’s new programme.

Mastercam Certification is a rigorous set of knowledge-based and practical tests that demonstrate a programmer’s ability to work effectively with CAM software, overcome common issues facing today’s shops, and produce high quality finished parts. It indicates knowledge and expertise in the world’s most widely used CAM software.
Previous certification was limited to those that had access to the required resources.

With this new certification product, the capability is now in reach for everyone regardless of where they reside. For Kiwis, this is good news.

The right person in the driver’s seat

However, when it comes down to the bottom line, the cost in implementing this type of training is often the biggest issue. It is important to remember though, that while there is of course a cost associated with training employees, there are also costs to face when things go wrong as a result of insufficient training.

“If we look at manufacturers and engineering shops, the majority of them are small businesses. So, when we talk cost and losing an employee to training, even for eight hours a week, that is one whole day – a fifth of their working week being spent on training and the employer finds that cost, in many cases, insurmountable,” says Parlane.

But with the growing realisation from companies that things must be done better, and looking to improve productivity, Parlane hopes that the industry will see an increased uptake in this type of training.

“We are seeing engineering companies spending anywhere from $150,000~$600,000 on capital plant and then they are putting engineers on to drive this plant without the appropriate driving skills. Engineers have got that philosophy of ‘I can fix that’, and yes they can, but the cost of doing that in an untrained and unskilled way is too high.”

The same way that a novice driver wouldn’t be put in the driver’s seat of a formula one race car, an appropriate driver needs to be at the wheel of this plant equipment. The way to do this? Certification – offering employers a way to unlock productivity at a minimal investment cost.

A win-win

As well as increased productivity, a big bonus for both potential employees and employers is transparency. Programmers and machinists who complete the Mastercam Certification programme carry with them a useful means of quickly proving and validating their Mastercam skills in an increasingly competitive industry.

By hiring Mastercam Certified employees, employers are guaranteed to get the level of experience and expertise that is required. The Mastercam courses are designed as what are called ‘university modules’, to be achieved in a three-month period.

“For a lot of these courses, the student is encouraged to do this in their own time. It is an investment in themselves,” says Parlane, with the certification being an achievement and credential that provides proof of skillsets and can open educational and career advancement opportunities. “It’s a win-win.”

An industry pathway

With the Mastercam Certification programme able to be completed anywhere and at any time, it acts as a great pathway into the industry for younger people wanting to pursue a career in the field. An example of this is a local student who recently completed the 2-axis Mastercam lathe course on the recommendation from Parlane.

“School wasn’t really working for him, and he wanted to get into an apprenticeship. He couldn’t get an apprenticeship because to the employer, he had no basic skill platform for them.”

After completing the module in less than two weeks, the student had then secured an
apprenticeship within the month.

“Why? Because he was able to take a qualification to the employer, the employer was able to see that he can programme a lathe and, importantly, demonstrate a proven motivated attitude. He now had something to offer the employer.”

Successful completion of the exams demonstrates the ability to explain and discuss the workflow for creating toolpaths, understanding the workflow of taking a model and creating NC code, articulate the difference between standard and Dynamic toolpaths, and understand the geometry in Mastercam. There are also no eligibility requirements or prerequisites needed to take a Certification exam.

More open dialogue

This new programme provides New Zealanders with the opportunity to learn CNC programming at the same level as anywhere else in the world. But what Parlane would like to see is more open dialogue and recognition of the benefits and need for this specific area of training.

“Too many companies in New Zealand are just simply not investing in this area of training, largely because they believe they can’t afford it. By not taking time to truly understand the technical aspects required, they are leaving money on the table with every job completed.

“This is an affordable way. This is a pathway forward for young people. They can do this without leaving their house, as long as they have got an internet connection and a device to run the course on, they can create this pathway and go into the market with confidence that they have got a skill that is required, desired and will achieve an outcome for them.”