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Weekend edition May 31, 2024 | Katelyn Keenehan

New partnership will combat workforce shortages in casting and forging

New METAL initiative aims to fill 122,000 vital roles by 2028 and strengthen national defense.

In a concerted effort to address the critical workforce shortages in the U.S. casting and forging industry, the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI) has partnered with the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment (IBAS) program. The organization announced the partnership earlier this week, it will include Pennsylvania State University (PSU), the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK), and Jobs for the Future (JFF) as key collaborators in a groundbreaking national workforce initiative.

The Metallurgical Engineering Trades Apprenticeship and Learning program (METAL) has been established in response to the DoD’s identification of a need for an additional 122,000 skilled personnel in essential roles by 2028. This program aims to strengthen national defense through workforce development and technological advancement.

METAL focuses on growing the U.S. industrial base’s competitiveness against national security threats. The initiative seeks to develop a resilient domestic workforce to sustain and enhance the nation’s casting and forging capabilities through 2050. This effort will address vulnerabilities within the U.S. defense supply chain, which currently relies heavily on foreign sources for critical cast and forged products.

“The shrinking supply chain and shortage of skilled labor demands an immediate response,” stated Dr. Matthew Draper, Technical Director of Metallurgy and Manufacturing for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Base Policy. “Our partnerships equip us to develop robust training programs that not only meet the immediate needs but also prepare the workforce for future technological advancements. This initiative will be a cornerstone for the future of the casting and forging sector and will provide opportunities for individuals to move into well-paying, dynamic, and meaningful careers.”

IACMI, with its proven track record in technical training through programs like America’s Cutting Edge (ACE), will expand educational initiatives focusing on essential base metal processes, including casting, forging, and plate production nationwide. The goal is to cultivate a skilled workforce ready to embark on and sustain careers in these industries. This includes engaging a diverse audience, from K-12 students to adults seeking further training or new career pathways.

Joannie Harmon, Vice President of Workforce Development for IACMI, emphasized the strategic importance of the initiative:

“Fostering the development of an industrial base workforce and ensuring the availability of the right skill sets – from skilled trades on the shop floor to doctoral-level engineering in research – is vital to national security. Our goal for METAL is to ensure that the nation’s advanced manufacturing workforce is a source of strategic and competitive advantage for the United States. Supporting the casting and forging sector is a critical role IACMI plays in creating a robust talent pipeline with twenty-first-century capabilities and skills,” she said.

PSU and UTK are co-developing online and in-person curricula tailored to various audiences, including outreach events for elementary students, workshops for middle and high school students, five-day boot camps for those aged 18 and over, and advanced metallurgical engineering courses and certificate programs.

JFF will play a crucial role in developing apprenticeship programs and upskilling workers across the country, helping companies recruit, train, and retain a more loyal and productive workforce. This effort is essential for ensuring national security and economic vitality.

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