Leonard Buster is one of many success stories to come out of the partnership between the Community College Workforce Alliance (CCWA) and Virginia Manufacturers Association (VMA), which in 2015 launched the Manufacturing Skills Institute (MSI) Manufacturing Technician Level 1 (MT1) certificate program.

Buster, an army veteran, was first notified of the program through the Virginia Employment Commission’s Veteran Services. After completing an orientation to qualify, Buster scored high enough on the Career Readiness Certificate to gain entrance into the program.

“The MT1 certification allowed me to walk away with a credential. It was a combination of learning about twelve different areas and three different tests. This certification is a stepping stone to move on to bigger things, including engineering,” said Buster.

Buster graduated with his MT1 certification in the spring of 2015 and began applying for jobs. He was contacted shortly after graduation by Wes Smith, CCWA’s Client Solutions Manager, who notified Buster that Fareva was looking for potential candidates. Buster’s resume was already in Fareva’s system. He interviewed and was able to bypass additional testing because it was already covered in his MT1 certification.

“Everything was taken care of through the MT1 certification course. MT1 got me into the door,” said Buster. Buster was hired as a bulk manufacturing technician and quickly transitioned to more responsibilities as a line mechanic. He maintains cosmetic lines and oversees the machines and processes.

Buster’s story is an example of how CCWA is training individuals to meet the needs of local employers, creating cohorts of job candidates who can move right into employment upon completion of the MT1 certificate program. This is the type of short-term training program that leads not only to industry-recognized certifications, but also to earning a salary that can support a family. 

CCWA has graduated eight classes of MT1-certified individuals and is the recipient of the American Apprenticeship Grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to expand apprenticeships in manufacturing using the MT1. In addition, CCWA has a new Advanced Manufacturing Mobile Learning Lab. This 40-foot mobile lab is a flexible training venue that CCWA can take to any company location. The mobile lab has a wide variety of interchangeable mechatronic, electrical, mechanical, pneumatic, and hydraulic training labs that can be installed in the trailer or placed within an offsite training lab to offer hands-on experiences during training.

Originally published by Virginia’s Community Colleges.

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