Also among the top companies is relatively tiny Acutec Precision Machining, which faces the challenge of hiring more staff in order to grow. Acutec specializes in milling, turning and non-destructive testing and it aims to capitalize on the current civil aviation run partly through its in-house machinist training program. New employees are matched up with a senior machinist to learn the trade. After 60 days on probation, the new hire is assessed by Acutec's leaders—including the senior machinist—to determine if he/she has what it takes to stay on board.
Acutec funds 85% of this in-house training; the state of Pennsylvania covers the other 15% for employees rebounding from unemployment or welfare. However, Patrick Faller, Acutec's human resources leader, says he is seeing more young people lately looking for a career path that allows them to use their technology know-how, while putting their hands on the product and avoiding the cost of higher education.
“We have to be very competitive to keep people once we've trained them,” Faller says. “Machinists and trade craftspeople are heavily sought by companies larger than ours.”
To compete, Acutec complements the training package with a 100%-company paid health care plan. “We are in a rural location where the cost of a health-care premium can easily equal a house mortgage,” Faller says.
It is a heavy cost for a company of less than 400 people to handle. But Acutec's owner, Rob Smith, believes it is the right thing to do: if Acutec is able to produce the first article on a line with no problems, it is worth the cost. And first-item quality does happen at Acutec.
“We also say that someone working for Acutec is a 'true' machinist,” he adds. “They download a design but can edit it during set up so they are 'crafting' each part. That is a real benefit to most people in this work. They have the responsibility and ability to do what is needed.”