Joseph Moore works days on the shop floor at GE Aviation’s fast-growing jet engine factory in Auburn – then teaches his experiences at night in the classroom.
He’s one of several operations managers at GE’s Auburn site with a teaching role during the month-long vocational training sessions at Southern Union State Community College near Auburn to prepare GE’s growing roster of hourly workers.
About four sessions are held annually to handle the demand for more trained workers in the GE Auburn factory. In addition to the Southern Union instructors, the program includes Moore and his GE colleagues each leading a three-hour evening of instruction each week.
“I really enjoy the interaction,” said Moore, who teaches lean manufacturing, Six Sigma quality practices and compliance. “Being part of the training also allows us to get a good look at the people we are evaluating for positions at the plant.”
The close cooperation between GE Aviation, Southern Union and the Alabama Department of Commerce is another example of GE Aviation preparing workers for the skill sets required in its new modern factories across the U.S.
“Alabama has long been a leader in workforce development, and it’s critical that we partner with industry leaders like GE Aviation to develop cutting-edge training programs like this one,” said Ed Castile, director of AIDT and deputy secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.
“With new technologies rapidly changing how factories and other workplaces operate, our workers must be equipped with the in-demand skills to succeed in the future.”
GE’s Auburn facility uses sophisticated equipment to machine advanced turbine airfoils and structural components for jet engines. Machine operators vying for positions are first trained at Southern Union with a curriculum developed by the Commerce Department’s AIDT division and by local GE plant leaders.
GE is actively involved in the training process because GE Auburn is ramping up fast. Employment reached 200 people in March and is expected to grow to 280 by year’s end, according to plant manager Ricardo Acevedo.
GE Auburn produces components for the fastest-selling jet engine in commercial aviation history, the “LEAP” engine for CFM International, the 50/50 joint company of GE and Safran Aircraft Engines of France.
More than 14,000 LEAP engines are on back order to power three airplanes: the Airbus A320neo (soon to be made in Alabama), Boeing 737 MAX and China’s COMAC C919. The Airbus and Boeing airplanes are now in airline service. The GE and Safran factories delivered 459 LEAP engines in 2017. The LEAP delivery goal is up to 1,200 engines for 2018 and in the 1,800-engine range in 2019.
In addition to machining parts, the Auburn site this year will produce more than 34,000 fuel nozzle injectors for the LEAP engine using additive manufacturing machines. Auburn’s 37 additive machines is expected to grow to 45 by midyear to handle the needed higher volume.
These employees require six weeks of in-house training. GE is looking at ways to engage the local community colleges in offering additive manufacturing as part of their curriculum. GE Aviation is also engaging with engineering students at Auburn University in additive manufacturing projects as part of a groundbreaking partnership.
Training for GE’s Auburn employees is not limited to community college classes. The plant also offers training in non-destructive testing in which employees become certified to evaluate jet engine components scanned in advanced X-ray machines.
“There’s a skills shortage in this field,” said Tory Landry, the plant’s human relations leader. “It’s hard to find the people. We offer in-house training to candidates who can then experience a significant pay increase.”
Among the factors Acevedo attributes to high retention at the plant is the GE investment in training.
“There are great careers in advanced manufacturing,” he said.
Over the past decade, GE Aviation has opened eight new facilities in the United States, including the new factory in Auburn and a $200 million advanced materials production center in Huntsville.
This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.