‘Fit for PM’ course helping fulfill area employment initiatives

ST. MARYS – The recently concluded ‘Fit for PM’ class, designed to train candidates for entry-level positions in the powder metal industry, was a collaboration by several groups and is helping to fulfill area employment initiatives. The course was offered through a grant from Highmark’s Local Workforce Initiative and was coordinated by the Community Education Council of Elk and Cameron Counties (CEC), PA CareerLink and the North Central Workforce Investment Board. It took several months to develop, and CEC Director of Educational Services Kate Lomax, who wrote most of the grant for the program, said the parties involved all provided input on what material and experiences they wanted to see put in the course. Throughout the development, she said, education, employability and meeting workforce needs were the priorities. "And it's so important. The powdered metal industry has grown up in St. Marys, Ridgway, Emporium, DuBois area for a reason. It's because they're all dependent on each other. If we lose one part of the P/M industry, we're going to lose a lot," Lomax said. At the end of the course last Monday, program graduates engaged in one-on-one interviews with participating employers Blue Water Thermal Solutions, Horizon Technology LLC, Keystone Powdered Metal Company, Metal Powder Products, Precision Compacted Components, Metaldyne Sintered Ridgway LLC, GKN Sinter Metals, and Alpha Sintered Metals Inc.The grant will allow for three more classes, and the developers of the course hope word-of-mouth and success in matching eligible employers with area businesses will result in full enrollment for each session. Connie Garrigan, business services representative at PA CareerLink, said she hopes people do take advantage of the training, which is free except for a required drug test and costs to travel to various sites where course activities are held. She said the course will help bring together both employers and employees. “In my role in the CareerLink as a business services rep, I go out and meet with the local employers and try to determine what their needs are, for employees, for training, for all that, and then I also meet with all the customers that are in our program, our dislocated workers, our adults, our youth, who have come in for services," Garrigan said. "I meet with them to help them find jobs, help them more in their job search if they’re struggling a little bit. As I meet with employers and find out what their needs are, then I can match people that are in our programs with what the employers’ needs are, so I do job development.”She said being able to tell employers that a job candidate has completed a course such as "Fit for PM" is helpful for their chances of employment. The biggest traits employers are looking for, and which are mentioned over and over, are "dependability" and "reliability," she said. "One of the biggest things I’m hearing from employers is they need people who will show up to work every day, who will be on time. And programs like this, number-one, they’ve participated in this program for, we’ve determined, seven weeks. They’ve shown up to several workshops at the CareerLink, they participated in two weeks of classes, so they’re right there showing those employers that they have a commitment," Garrigan said. "The powder metal employers, that’s where most of our jobs are right now, and by them [students] taking this course, it’s given them a little bit of background on the powder metal industry. Some of them already had a little bit, some of them have no background in powder metal, so it will help them get what they need to start a job in the powder metal industry. "Employers are always looking for people with a little bit of experience, and so they’ve gotten some of that experience in this few short weeks that they’ve participated.”Pick up a copy of the Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.