Finding skilled welders is an industry-wide challenge, causing AAR to rethink the answer with a public-private partnership with Goldsboro, N.C.’s Wayne Community College. Working in partnership, the two have designed an eight-week welding certificate program to address a shortage of welders at AAR Mobility Systems. A spokesman for the company said it typically takes a year to earn a welding diploma at Wayne. Under the customized curriculum, incumbent workers from AAR who complete the course can test for their welding certificate and immediately increase their salaries by as much as $4.50 per hour.
Wayne recently added daytime classes to accommodate AAR employees who work nights, so students earn a paycheck while they learn. Six AAR employees have completed the program and two have gone on to earn their one-year welding diploma from Wayne. The fast-track welding curriculum is also available to non-AAR employees through Wayne Community College’s adult continuing education initiatives. Most recently, AAR worked with local industries and the college to develop an introduction to manufacturing course designed to prepare students for manufacturing careers.
“The fast-track program is helping us to build a pipeline of talent and provides employees in lower-skilled positions, such as grinders, a clear pathway to advancement to mid-skills jobs,” said Kevin Johnson, training specialist for AAR. “Across middle America, AAR is providing leadership to solve hiring challenges related to profound skills gaps in manufacturing and aerospace.”
AAR also partners with educators, nonprofits and industry associations in Miami; Indianapolis; Hot Springs, Ark.; and Oklahoma City to align curricula with industry standards.
“As people move up to welding, we’ll have to hire more grinders,” Johnson said. “This creates career paths and will open up opportunities for our other manufacturing employees.”