Manufacturing today offers a new world of opportunity

It’s National Manufacturing Month, and that makes October a great opportunity to take a fresh look at the industry’s role in our nation, our state and right here in Hopkins County. Its opportunities are real and growing, and they might be a good bit different than you imagine when you think about the industry.


For example, modern manufacturing is evolving into a more diverse sector, as much about creating things as producing them. The old perceptions of grimy plants, tedious manual tasks and dangerous machines are giving way as advanced technologies such as 3D printing, computer-aided design and robotics play a larger and larger role in bringing about our products.


“New jobs in modern manufacturing extend beyond shop floors and laboratories into offices, state-of-the-art tech centers and even your living room,” write the National Association of Manufacturers and Manufacturing Institute at their recruitment website, “Everything that is made needs smart thinkers and doers to invent, market, distribute and maintain revolutionary products.”

Click here to read Ray Hagerman’s complete article published on The Messenger website.

Apprenticeships rebuild excitement for manufacturing careers, close skills gap: Pathways to Prosperity

A shortage of skilled workers in Northeast Ohio may have just as much to do with an image problem for manufacturing as a lack of training for potential employees.

The Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network, or MAGNET, is attempting to tackle both issues through its two-year apprenticeship program for high school students. Students in the Early College Early Career, or ECEC, program take tuition-free classes toward an advanced manufacturing and technology degree at area community colleges to learn the skills employers are demanding.

Through paid internships at local companies, the students see first-hand that many of the old stereotypes about manufacturing aren’t true.

Autumn Russell, ECEC’s executive director, said the program challenges longstanding notions that students either head to college after high school or into the workforce. Perhaps they’ll do both.

“We really want to create this paradigmatic shift in thinking, in redefining what success looks like for students,” she said. “Right now in our education system, all programs, all strategies, all initiatives are college prep.”

Click here to read Olivera Perkins’ complete article published on the website.

Software company hopes to address local skills gap

With the goal of solving the local skills gap, a new company has stepped forward with a solution for St. Joseph.

Valor Education Group is working with local employers to meet their workforce training needs. There are currently about 1,000 job openings in the maintenance and manufacturing industry locally. It’s a topic that hasn’t gone unnoticed. State and federal funding has become available for employers’ training needs, and companies like Valor are stepping forward to help.

“The sheer numbers alone just has forced us on how are we going to solve this issue,” said Lute Atieh with Valor Education Group. “It’s not just an issue of jobs, it’s an issue of our community and making our community more attractive for people to live because there are jobs.”

Click here to read Jennifer Hall’s complete article published on the News-Press website. 

Career technology education sees rebirth

The idea that the only option high school students have for the future is attending a college for four years straight is beginning to become a thing of the past with more and more career technology education programs on the rise.

Students at both of Nashua’s high schools, North and South, are given the opportunity to enroll in the Career Technology Education program, which offers 19 individual fields, which includes biotechnology, culinary, cosmetology, computer-aided drafting & design and more.

Amanda Bastini, director of the Nashua Technology Center North, touched upon the success of the program.

“Ninety percent who finish CTE programs graduate from high school. What CTE is preparing kids for is either college or a career,” Bastoni said, and she explained that there has been a shift in society. “There is the idea that kids have to go to a four-year college straight after high school and, as a nation, we are realizing it is a fallacy. Lots of kids don’t finish college and still have huge debt.”

Bastoni said CTE programs recognize the need to help kids prepare for careers that may not come out of a college, such as plumbing and electrician careers.

Click here to read Grace Pecci’s compete article published on The Telegraph website. 

Future Ready Iowa Summit debuts in Muscatine with call for more skilled workers

Although Iowa is posting the lowest unemployment rate in 18 years, communities need to do more to be workforce ready.

It’s no secret that jobs are changing with the times.  While not every career requires a college degree, companies are still struggling to find applicants with the up-skills to qualify for jobs.

“There’s definitely a need for more,” said Mandy Parchert, HNI Corporation, on Friday, September 21. ” I think that everyone here today in the industry would agree that we need more.”

This is the first of more than a dozen Future Ready Iowa Summits.  In a nutshell, it’s a statewide fact-finding mission to identify ways to be workforce ready.

Click here to read John David’s complete article published on the WQAD website. 

Talent pipeline management, manufacturing apprenticeship intermediary program

President and CEO of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce & Executive Director of the Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier

Though talent is a renewable resource, manufacturing is lagging in generating a workforce with the needed skills and qualifications required to compete in a global market. Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) is a demand driven solution that works by applying the lessons from supply chain management, used in industry, to manage education and workforce partnerships.

The Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier (MAST) is working with local manufacturers to generate a clear link between their talent strategy and their business strategy to identify the jobs upon which their competitiveness depends. Employers are the end customers of talent supply chains, working through the TPM initiative with MAST, a preferred network of partners is being put together and managed to supply the talent needed in today’s workforce. As with any supply chain, quality is one of the key activities in this initiative. To be successful infrastructure must be introduced to ensure end-to-end performance tracking at every stage of the supply chain. Beneficiaries of this initiative include:

1. Employers: get a better prepared workforce

2. Providers: achieve better outcomes for students

3. Students and Workers: can access clear career pathways

4. Policy Makers: generate a higher return on their education and workforce investments

Click here to read Todd Tranum’s complete article pertaining to the MAST on the Observer Today website. 

Help wanted: Jobs are available, but finding qualified workers is a challenge

One of Gov. Phil Bryant’s favorite phrases is, “Mississippi wins with people,” when referring to the state’s economic development efforts.


With state unemployment near a record low, it seems the state is doing what it needs to do when it comes to landing the businesses and industries and growing the ranks of tax-paying workers.


“Winning with people” suggests that companies are finding the workers they need and want. And by many regards, they are.

But at separate but related career and workforce development summits last week in Tupelo via the CREATE Foundation, local and regional economic development groups and the Appalachian Regional Commission, it was clear that companies are having more difficulty finding the workers they need. The issue has been bubbling beneath the surface for years, and ironically has only worsened as the overall economy has improved.


The problem of finding enough qualified workers has been exacerbated by a deterioration in what are called soft skills such as strong work ethic, leadership skills, communication skills, problem-solving, time management and teamwork.

Click here to read Dennis Seid’s entire article published on the Daily Journal website. 

Bridging the skills gap and finding employees

Ron Wanek is the founder and chairman of the world’s largest furniture manufacturer and retailer, Ashley Furniture Industries. With sales topping $8 billion, Wanek’s company has been an unqualified success.


Northeast Mississippi has been a beneficiary – and contributor – to Ashley’s growth. The company employs some 3,200 people at three facilities in Ecru, Ripley and Verona. The Ecru plant is the largest upholstered furniture plant in the U.S. Ashley’s economic impact in the state is more than $200 million a year. The company does business in 155 countries and has manufacturing and distribution facilities in the U.S. and around the world.


But even a company like Ashley has trouble finding enough skilled workers to fill the jobs that are available. Wanek says a major reason is that the emphasis in education has been misguided.

“Why do we have a skills shortage? For years and years, probably 30 years or more, schools have taught that it’s not great to have a skill, that you should get a degree,” Wanek said. “We didn’t emphasize those skills jobs, the jobs using your hands, for too long. Probably 50 percent of schools don’t teach what used to be called industrial arts, and that’s a shame.”

Click here to read Dennis Seid’s complete article published on the Daily Journal website. 

Schools put new emphasis on CTE path

Surry County Schools has kicked off the new school year with a renewed emphasis on vocational and technical studies.

Last month, Dr. Travis Reeves, school superintendent, touched on the topic when discussing an agricultural studies barn to be built at North Surry.

Yes, Surry County Schools pushes a college-going culture and emphasizes earning college credits in high school, said the superintendent. However, there is also a growing movement toward re-emphasizing career and technical education (CTE).

TV personality Mike Rowe, of “Dirty Jobs” and “Somebody’s Gotta Do It” fame, started the mikeroweWORKS Foundation. He speaks publicly to bring awareness to “the country’s dysfunctional relationship with work, highlighting the widening skills gap, and challenging the persistent belief that a four-year degree is automatically the best path for the most people.”

Rowe has posted many times on his Facebook page about this topic such as: “I think a trillion dollars of student loans and a massive skills gap are precisely what happens to a society that actively promotes one form of education as the best course for the most people. I think the stigmas and stereotypes that keep so many people from pursuing a truly useful skill, begin with the mistaken belief that a four-year degree is somehow superior to all other forms of learning.”

Click here to read Jeff Linville’s complete article published on The Mount Airy News website. 

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