Training Within Industry (TWI) – Closing the skills gap, again!

By Glenn Marshall

American businesses are facing a critical shortage of skilled and work-ready employees. According to a new U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation study 74 percent of hiring managers agree that there is a skills gap in the current labor market, with 48 percent saying that candidates lack the skills needed to fill open jobs.

The United States is discovering that the demise of career and vocational education programs at the high school level has bred a skills shortage of career-ready graduates. This lack of focus on career and technical education courses has led to a loss of important industry knowledge and technical skills, which has brought us a growing shortage of candidates who can replenish the retiring baby boomers.

The U.S. has faced this challenge before, notably during World War II when the majority of working men went off to fight in the war. Industry realized that they were facing a massive labor shortage and was challenged to find replacements from the ranks of nontraditional and low-skilled workers. To address this dilemma, they developed the Training Within Industry (TWI) programs in 1940. Over the course of the war, the companies that put TWI in place saw increased production, a reduction in labor, scrap and training times and experienced a dramatic drop in grievances.

The 3 different TWI programs developed in the U.S. during WWII were:

  • TWI Job Instruction: Establishing a foundation that can quickly training employees to do a job correctly, safely, and conscientiously

  • TWI Job Relations: Building positive employee relations, increasing cooperation and motivation, and effectively resolving conflict.

  • TWI Job Method: Improving work processes and procedures to produce greater quantities of quality products in less time by making the best use of the available people, machines and materials.

In essence, TWI transformed U.S. manufacturers into lean, mean production machines to help win the war. TWI was such a proven process for hands-on learning, practice, coaching and certification that the U.S. brought TWI to Japan in the 1950s where it became the foundational component of the Toyota Production System (TPS).

Today, TWI can provide manufacturing subject matter experts and supervisors with the tools they need to train new employees quickly and consistently, as well as to efficiently cross-train existing employees. TWI breaks jobs down into bottom-line basics, establishing the best way for each unique manufacturer to train its people and create a new work culture standard (i.e. how everyone works together). In essence, instead of just asking individual supervisors to teach employees to fish, the process trains the entire workforce in how to fish more efficiently.

TWI programs supply a multiplier effect for companies to quickly and effectively train new workers to replace retiring seasoned workers. As a result, companies that have participated in TWI have seen the time to transition new hires into productive workers cut in half, with immediate reductions in scrap and rework. Thanks to those efficiencies, it does not take long to see morale and turnover improve among both new and experienced employees.

This proven method was — and still is — spread through an efficient and standardized course. TWI Train-the-Trainer programs instruct TWI supervisors, managers and trainers in how to train employees according to a standardized method. As a result of these standardized training programs, the TWI Institute is proud to report meaningful results, including:

  • 45% increased performance in productivity
  • 68% reduction in training times
  • 23% reduction in employee turnover
  • 70% fewer accidents
  • These statistics represent documented composite results from actual improvements measured in client engagements and tracking metrics from the U.S. government.

    Long-term, this training process is designed to create a culture of respect, solid communication and cooperation — all which produce bottom-line results. It is estimated that 39 percent of manufacturers plan on cross-training to help employees assume new job roles, particularly in the aerospace and defense sectors. Even more manufacturers, 62 percent, are planning for the future by making investments in technology, such as robotics, digital security and 3D printing in anticipation of the post-pandemic workforce recovery.

    TWI best practices can enable companies to replenish their workforce with skilled professionals to create a competitive advantage that allows them to sustain and enable the Reshoring Initiative to bring manufacturing jobs back home. Thus making “Made in America” and the “American Dream” a reality by closing the skills gap, again!

    Resources for TWI deployment

    TWI Institute, Manufacturing Extension Partnership and other learning organizations can guide your journey using these proven programs to address your work-ready workforce needs, including deployment in high schools and apprentice programs to graduate the next generation of makers who are ready to go to work.

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