Rockwell hopes veterans program will graduate 1,000 per year by 2020

Posted by Patrick Leary from Milwaukee Business Journal on April 20, 2018

This spring’s 12-week Academy of Advanced Manufacturing trained 23 veterans, and Rockwell Automation Inc. CEO Blake Moret hopes 150 go through the program this year. By 2020, he’d like that number to be 1,000.

Thursday’s graduation ceremony marked the culmination of the first Milwaukee run for the program, a partnership between Milwaukee-based companies ManpowerGroup (NYSE: MAN) and Rockwell (NYSE: ROK) that gives veterans training to apply the organizational skills picked up during their military service to the advanced manufacturing industry. For Moret, it’s a way for Rockwell to help chip away at the skills gap plaguing the manufacturing industry both statewide and across the nation.

“The skills gap is real, and it’s affecting us and it’s affecting our customers,” Moret said. “We have to partner with them to be able to help them meet that demand.”

Fixing the skills gap doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all solution, but Moret thinks Rockwell has found a pretty good one with the Academy of Advanced Manufacturing. The program allows veterans, often highly qualified, disciplined individuals who can’t find work because of a lack of real-world training, to find meaningful, well-paid careers and works directly with potential employers to find them placements.

Moret said finding “anchor tenants,” employers willing to hire dozens of Academy of Advanced Manufacturing graduates at a time, will be crucial to the program’s growth.

“The linkage with the hiring companies is key and this is a piece that’s missing in most other types of educational programs,” he said.

Joe Allie, who oversees the program in his role as Rockwell’s director of global competency, agreed with Moret that employer participation will drive expansion.

“The plan we have in place is a lot based on adoption, as well as getting some cornerstone tenants, people that are committed to the program,” Allie said.

Of the class of 23 celebrating completion Thursday, 16 had already found placements after the program concluded. One of the 16 was Jeremy Pellot, a Wisconsin native taking a job with Owens Corning in Savannah, Ga.

“Once I found out it was coming to Milwaukee, I was just like, ‘this is for me,'” Pellot said. “Knowing the success that the previous class had, I just thought that this was the perfect spot for me, and it felt like it was coming to Milwaukee just for me.”

Pellot served four years in the United States Air Force before taking a job at Inpro Corp. as an installer. He called the program “a blessing,” as it helped him get back into a hands-on, technical position.

“Coming out of the military without a degree was kind of hard, because I had the skills to do the job, I just didn’t have the education,” he said. “This gave me that foot in the door to do what I’ve been trying to do for the past few years.”

And that’s the key to the program, according to Moret. It might not close the skills gap completely or fix veteran hiring, but it’s going to make a dent and create momentum toward solving both issues.

“That’s not going to single-handedly meet the needs of either the returning veterans or manufacturers in America, but it’s big enough to prove that we can get this to scale,” Moret said.

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