Publication Date

Fall 2017

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Daniel Jackson (Director), Dr. Bryan Reaka and Dr. Brent Askins

Degree Program

Department of Architectural and Manufacturing Sciences

Degree Type

Master of Science


This thesis explores the skill sets of the current American workforce, the skills required in modern, technically advanced U.S. manufacturing facilities, and the multiple approaches postsecondary education has employed to bridge the gap between the two. Millions of dollars are spent each year educating and training the incumbent workforce without any definitive measure of whether the financial investment or effort is actually providing a return.

To illustrate, organizations typically require a projected return-on-investment (ROI) before committing funds to a project. However, the same approach does not seem to be applied when investing in human capital for the purpose of improving the technical skills required of the incumbent workforce in manufacturing. Training efforts and effectiveness are typically measured by the amount of training dollars spent and some form of post-training satisfaction survey.

Adding to the dilemma is the fact that postsecondary education and workforce development organizations do not have performance metrics that align with manufacturing or industry metrics. The misalignment becomes more evident when trying to determine if the funding is actually paying off once an incumbent worker completes their training and returns to the shop floor. This project sought to determine if a return on training dollars could be quantified and measured so that industry can discern whether training is value-added or if postsecondary training providers should better align their product with customers’ expectations.

Experiments were conducted with incumbent production workers to determine if an educational intervention translated to a quantifiable return on an organization’s training investment. Measurements in the time it took to repair a piece of production equipment were taken and compared to post-intervention times for the same activity to determine if hypothesized improvements actually occurred. Data was also collected and analyzed to determine if incumbent workers’ prior maintenance experience had an impact on the reduction of time to repair the production equipment.

The experiment illustrated a statistically significant difference in the repair times for those who received the intervention. The second phase of the experiment that sought to determine if prior maintenance experience was beneficial to improving repair times did not support the hypothesized outcome.


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