Aerospace Company Says Skills Training Improves Workforce

Mar 30, 2017

A company in Wall Township New Jersey makes a product they hope you’ll never need. But it could save your life.

(Worker announces “safety pins removed,  pressure is good. Alarms sound. Three, two, one. Sounds of evacuation slide unfolding)

That’s what it sounds like when an inflatable escape slide used on commercial airplanes is deployed during a test at the Zodiac Aerospace factory.

An employee demonstrates how an inflatable evacuation slide used to escape from aircraft can be deployed

The company in Wall sells 65 percent of the evacuation slides put into new planes. Their products were also in the movie ‘Sully’.

While showing how they’re made during a factory tour, vice president of manufacturing Neil Cavaleri says those emergency slides are used about once every two weeks somewhere in the world.

He says deploying a slide usually does not mean the plane is crashing.

“It just means that the pilot thinks from a safety standpoint it’s better to get you out of that aircraft because what are you sitting in? A belly of gasoline.”

Vice President of Manufacturing Neil Cavaleri says customers want products to be perfect

Because the evacuation slides and the rafts the company makes have to be in perfect life-saving condition, he says proper training for the workforce is essential.

About half of the factory’s 150 employees have participated in New Jersey's Basic Skills Workforce Training Program.

Sivaraman Anbarasan is the executive director of the New Jersey Community College Consortium that provides the training at college campuses and employer worksites .

“Basic skills involve anything from literacy skills, basic communications, written, verbal, business communications all the way to computer skills and time management, conflict resolution”

Carolina Diaz took the basic skills course when she began working at Zodiac Aerospace ten years ago. She's now a quality control inspector at the company.

"Basic skills gave me confidence in my job in my everyday work and actually inspired me to keep going and go back to school. Now what I'm doing is I'm working on my Masters In Business Administration."

The state provides $1.2 million a year in grants for the basic skills program.  It has trained about 114,000 workers for more than 7,500 New Jersey employers over the past decade.

New Jersey Business and Industry Association president Michele Siekerka says it helps workers advance and gives companies the skilled workforce to have a competitive edge.

“When we have people who are trained and can get jobs and can continue to grow in their companies that’s healthy to the economy because as they earn more money they’re going to put that money back into the economy, and also they’re going to have a better quality of life for themselves.”

The companies pay workers for the hours they attend the training sessions, but there’s no tuition charge.

Zodiac Aerospace is considered a model for how effective the basic skills program can be and officials are hoping that success will help it keep soaring.