Graduates, employers deem ‘Fit for PM’ class a success

The powder metal industry is looking for dedicated entry-level employees—and the eight graduates of the “Fit for Powder Metal Program” course that concluded last week have high hopes that they will fit the bill. The seven-week course was offered through a grant from Highmark’s Local Workforce Initiative and coordinated by the Community Education Council of Elk and Cameron Counties (CEC), PA CareerLink and the North Central Workforce Investment Board (WIB), and taught attendees about the history and current trends of the powder metal (PM) industry, as well as job readiness and communications skills. The course concluded last Monday with 15-minute, one-on-one interviews for each graduate with several area employers; a certificate ceremony; and lunch. CEC Director of Educational Services Kate Lomax, who wrote the majority of the grant, said the course was developed over several months with input from staff at CEC, North Central, CareerLink, and participating employers. "This program, the whole idea came about over probably six months of conversations and meetings about various things with employers in that it kept coming up-- that no one can train a die setter overnight, no one can train a machinist overnight. Those positions take decades to become a very skilled die setter or machinist. And so what the powder metal employers in particular had been saying was, 'We just need people, we need to know that they're committed and they're a good fit,'" Lomax said. The course has a value of about $2,500 per person, but it was offered free to participants through the grant; their only costs were for travel and a payment of $75 to take the drug test they were required to pass prior to enrollment. The CEC also provided each graduate with a $50 check to offset travel expenses incurred throughout the program.