In January, there were 7,700 manufacturing jobs open in Colorado. Where is the next generation of productive and skilled workers in manufacturing going to come from?

This is a question – and a challenge – that Jim Wall, executive director of the National Institute of Metalworking Skills (NIMS) presented to a group of manufacturers gathered recently at Front Range Community College’s Boulder County Campus in Longmont.

He offered a formula: Industry Credentials + Apprenticeship = Leaders of Tomorrow.

Jim Wall photoCredentials

NIMS develops quality competency-based skills standards and credentials for jobs in manufacturing and related industries.

Credentials are something an employer can take to the bank. Summaries of some of the credentials people earn from NIMS start the same way: “This certification validates that an individual has the skills and knowledge to successfully … .”

FRCC’s Machining Program is NIMS-accredited and on the Manufacturing Institute’s “M-List,” a recognition that it teaches to industry standards. So when a graduate presents his or her NIMS credentials to an employer, the employer knows the applicant’s skills and knowledge have been verified with industry-developed standards.


Last year, the U.S. Department of Labor chose NIMS to be an industry liaison to support the expansion of apprenticeships within manufacturing. Wall stressed the liaison function – a manufacturer wouldn’t have a Department of Labor official walking through your site. NIMS has Department of Labor-registered national apprenticeship guidelines for in-demand manufacturing occupations:

  • Machinist
  • CNC Machinist
  • CNC Set-up Programmer – Milling and Turning
  • CNC Set-up Programmer – Milling
  • CNC Set-up Programmer – Turning
  • CNC Operator – Milling
  • CNC Operator – Turning
  • CNC Operator – Milling and Turning
  • Machine Builder
  • Machine Took Maintenance Technician
  • Stamping Press Set-up Operator
  • Mold Maker
  • Tool and Die Maker

An apprentice may start by earning a core set of NIMS credentials, earn additional NIMS credentials that fit the employer’s needs, and go on to earn other credentials, maybe not from NIMS, that are specific to the company.

According to the Department of Labor, for every dollar an employer invests in an apprenticeship, the employer receives $1.47 in increased productivity, reduced waste, and greater innovation.

NIMS has funding to support apprentice programs.  Another great resource specific to Colorado is CareerWise Colorado, which coordinates apprenticeships among businesses, students, and educators.

Leaders of Tomorrow

Tecomet in Boulder has six apprentices, Kevin McGrath, vice president, told the attendees. The company uses apprenticeships to retain people and build a culture of excellence. The company recruits the brightest talent to enter the program. The benefit of building their own leaders of tomorrow exceeds the cost, he said.

FRCC is a member of the Department of Labor’s Registered Apprenticeship-Collegiate Consortium. Contact George Newman at for details about how FRCC can help.

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