The collective brain power and skill set of the individuals within a company make that business successful. The significance of this to orthopaedics is that the industry is experiencing hiring obstacles that hinder company and, ultimately, industry growth.
These obstacles aren't new. In the last decade, their persistence has fostered programs in orthopaedic hubs in an effort to recruit, train and retain the best in our industry, to end the conversation about a lack of qualified candidates once and for all. That charge has spurred collaboration amongst competitors and customers, led to the development of education for future generations and motivated companies to invest in employees through skills and leadership advancement, mentorship programs and team-building exercises.
Those of you with established careers in orthopaedics have most likely heard of shortages at the machinist and skilled labor levels; those have been among the hardest positions for orthopaedic device and supplier companies to fill. A search of the BONEZONE website provided resources from five years ago for CNC machinists in training. The challenge remains because, in short, a small number of people are entering the trade, and orthopaedic
manufacturers are competing amongst themselves and
against other manufacturing industries to acquire those
trained, skilled workers.
Four Tips to Developing an Apprenticeship Program
Many device companies and suppliers have created their own apprenticeship programs to fill gaps in employment. The payoff for this investment in resources and people is a well-trained, dedicated employee.
XL Precision Technologies, manufacturer of precision micro-components and subassemblies for the medical device industry, has graduated 15 individuals over the last eight years of its apprenticeship program at its U.K. facility, training CNC programmers, manufacturing and inspection technicians, R&D and quality engineers. The company recently launched an apprenticeship program at its U.S. location, which opened in 2016.
Tom Graham, Managing Director, shared advice from his experiences.
Find a Good Partner
Define the Program
Involve Multiple Employees
Large investments are being made to change that. In Warsaw, Indiana, OrthoWorx has worked with Ivy Tech Community College to develop an orthopaedic skills certificate in advanced manufacturing. The program combines efforts with local high school career centers to build enrollment and complete coursework at the Ivy Tech Orthopedic and Advanced Manufacturing Training Center.
In Tennessee, the Greater Memphis Medical Device Council has partnered with local technical schools to align their curricula with the needs of the orthopaedic community, secured funding to build and outfit a training facility to support medical device careers and recently, launched an apprenticeship program for machinists.
In Florida, the Arthrex Manufacturing Apprentice Program provides training and advancement opportunities for the company’s manufacturing employees.
These are just three examples of campaigns initiated by organizations and companies in and outside of the U.S. to attract and educate new employees.
“Our view is that great training programs exist in our area at the secondary and post-secondary levels,” says Brad Bishop, Executive Director of OrthoWorx. “The challenge is to get more students and incumbent workers into those programs and into the manufacturing workforce.”
The next step in the effort is to engage younger students and their parents earlier in the dialogue to eliminate the stigma attached to manufacturing, and to show that orthopaedics is a high-tech industry with room for career advancement.
When we asked a handful of industry folks about the hardest-to-fill positions, machinists topped the list every time. Next was an interesting mix of regulatory, clinical, quality, engineering, supply chain and sales.
(Programs are being launched to continue development in these areas, as well. For example, OrthoWorx worked with Grace College to educate the regulatory and quality professionals who must keep pace with rapidly-changing requirements.)
Each of these positions requires a specialized skill set, just like machinists. We found this next-grouping of positions interesting because of its comprehensiveness.
It emphasizes the challenges companies face while suggesting there is room for career shifts and advancements.
After all, the next great device innovations and supply chain strategies and quality improvements will come from people—they will come from you. What impact can you have with your influence and your resources, however limited or expansive?