“We recognized it was essential that we attract, train, and retain our next generation of mechanics and EIA specialists.” —Gary N. “Bo” Davis, Mosaic vice president of phosphate operations
Lobbyists can say that manufacturing needs a qualified workforce, but this company pitched in for its own cause
A few years ago, The Mosaic Co. caught a glimpse of the future, and it didn’t like what it saw. The fertilizer maker maintains a worldwide workforce of more than 7,000 people, nearly 3,000 of them in nine Florida production facilities. A 2005 study revealed that fully 40% of the Florida workforce was age 55 to 62, just shy of the company’s retirement age of 63.
In particular, Mosaic found two job types on the verge of obsolescence: the journeyman mechanic, tasked with work such as pipe fitting, iron working, sheet metal, welding, mechanical, and rigging; and the electrical, instrumentation, and automation (EIA) specialist, who handles electrical components and performs instrumentation, PLC, and computer-controlled systems work on the plant floor.
Faced with losing some of its most valuable workers, Mosaic officials fought the temptation to contract out its plant maintenance, says Rick Johnson, the company’s training coordinator. Determined to keep the work in-house to keep costs down, quality up, and its workforce strong, Mosaic enlisted Ernie Helms, an industry veteran, and worked with Polk State College, Rockwell Automation, the Banner Center for Advanced Manufacturing, and consultant RWD Technologies to develop two apprenticeship tracks with which it would train its workforce: one for mechanical work, the other for EIA skills.
For each, Mosaic and its partners created a two-year accelerated apprenticeship program. Students take classes two days a week and receive on-the-job training the remainder of the week, all while drawing a salary. Graduates receive a state department of labor certificate for participation, as well as certification as a production technician from the national Manufacturing Skills Standards Council, 31 credits toward an A.S. degree in engineering technologies, and Rockwell Automation and ICML certifications.
In October 2010, Mosaic welcomed its first graduating class of 46 certified craftsmen, 14 of them mechanical specialists, 32 graduates of the EIA curriculum. Another crop of 25 is working through the two-year program, and a third class of 16 began earlier this year. The graduates are already putting their new skills to use in Mosaic’s manufacturing facilities, helping to shore up the workforce for generations to come.
“In keeping with Mosaic’s vision of being a best-in-class company, we recognized it was essential that we attract, train, and retain our next generation of mechanics and EIA specialists,” says Gary N. “Bo” Davis, vice president of phosphate operations. “The quality of instruction and the expectations of our graduates are high, and they are already adding critical bench strength at our facilities.”