Q: What would you like the CTE Community to know about your industry, company, or area?
A: We would like to ensure that everyone has an accurate understanding of the upsides of modern/advanced manufacturing! Good careers and competitive wages are available in a whole host of positions. Manufacturing has moved beyond the outdated image of dark and dirty factory floor jobs with no opportunity for advancement. Manufacturing requires skills, problem solving, technical knowledge and more.
Q: What does the employment picture in your field look like over the next few years?
A: The wood products industry is definitely an aging sector with significant numbers of boomers retiring. Like many other sectors, CNC (computer numerically controlled) operator and machine technician are very popular occupations. There are also many people employed in areas related to design and engineering, software expertise, sales and marketing, and plant operations, as well as specialty areas such as finishing. Boomers are retiring from all of these areas.
Q: What challenges have you faced in your efforts to hire and train new employees?
A: We often hear from our member companies that they are desperate to find new hires that have good soft skills—reliability, good teamwork and communication skills, etc. Many companies are willing to train if they feel that a newly hired employee is likely to stay with their company for a significant period of time, which will make their investment worthwhile.
Q: How has your organization worked with educational institutions to shrink the skills gap in your industry?
A: Some of our enterprising member companies have created their own internship programs. One example is North Carolina’s Blum Hardware and their Apprenticeship 2000 program. Others have looked to schools in their areas with related coursework to attract new workers. We have a number of member companies who are sponsors of SkillsUSA competitions as well. However, many companies in our industry are small- to mid-sized and they are hard pressed to find the time or money for extensive marketing campaigns that would allow them to grow their workforce.
Q: Are there any strategies you would like to employ to shrink the skills gap that you have not been able to so far?
A: We would like to make people more aware of the realities of contemporary industry—perhaps through more externships promoted and facilitated by school districts, which might include participation from career counselors as well as teachers. We want parents to understand that today’s manufacturing offers stability and career growth for their children, and we would like to encourage all school personnel to make this point in their interactions with parents.
Read ACTE’s Advancing Manufacturing Sector Sheet to learn more, and check back next week for another blog from one of our Business and Industry Partners!