The perennial “skills shortage” problem haunting manufacturers in the U.S. and Europe is apparently a problem for machine tool builders too – and that aspect of the situation is being tacked by CECIMO, the European Association the Machine Tool Industries. The Brussels-based organization this week set up ‘METALS’  (MachinE Tool ALliance for Skills), an initiative to identify the skills needed by machine tool developers in Germany, Italy, and Spain, and then to develop a curriculum and gather relevant learning materials to be made available through an e-learning platform.

“New manufacturing technologies generate business opportunities for machine tool builders,” according to CECIMO, “but the development of new skills is not commonly supported by vocational education and training (VET) programs.”

“The upcoming machine tool workforce should be trained on new applications, like metal additive manufacturing, to support the global technological leadership of the European machine tool industry,” according to director general Filip Geerts.

CECIMO is the union of trade associations from 15 EU nations, and represents more than 1,500 companies. Its member associations represent 97% of machine tool production in EU, and more than 33% of the world’s machine tool production capacity.

Member associations from Germany (VDW), Italy (UCIMU) and Spain (AFM) developed METALS to improve the relevance of vocational education and training (VET) programs for the machine tool industry by bringing together industry representatives, VET providers, and regulatory bodies from their home countries.

They intend for their machine tool building member firms to have a pool of talented individuals available for employment, with in-demand, advanced skills in line with emerging advanced manufacturing processes. For example, metal additive manufacturing technologies will be a specific focus of the METALS initiative.

Last year CECIMO convened a conference of industrial, academic, policy, and standards experts to examine how the region’s additive manufacturing production can be expanded (“full-scale industrialization”) speedily and cost-effectively, but also how it can “generate the highest value for society.”

“By bringing together partners from education and industry across Europe, METALS is expected to improve the sector’s labor market intelligence,” CECIMO explained. “It will provide policy-makers with the sectorial insights they need to design policies and programs boosting the competitiveness of European machine tool companies and the employability of its workforce.”

It continued: “Throughout the initiative, the consortium will also organize skills workshops in Germany, Spain and Italy with the participation of relevant stakeholders.

METALS will be a three-year project, inaugurated under an EU program (Erasmus+) promoting education-industrial partnerships in specific economic sectors across the region.