Skilled workers are in demand
ROCHESTER — A weeklong effort hopes to highlight the need to increase the pool of skilled workers and improve the knowledge base of the future workforce across the state.
Manufacturing Week culminates with state-wide tours of Career Technical Education centers this morning; advanced manufacturing lab tours at community colleges this afternoon; and the 11th Annual Governor’s Advanced Manufacturing and High Technology Summit in Manchester on Thursday.
Before kicking off a day of seminars, the summit, which is being held at the Center of New Hampshire in the Radisson Hotel, is scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. with registration and breakfast.
Manufacturing Week was organized by members of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnerships in Education (AMPed), a state-wide initiative created to educate and train people for high-wage, high-skill jobs in the advanced manufacturing industry, according to its website: http://www.ampednh.com/.
Earlier this week, students, businesses, headhunters and officials toured several manufacturers across the Seacoast, including Nantucket Beadboard and RP Abrasives & Machine in Rochester and Agility Manufacturing in Dover.
Joe Shean, president of RP Abrasives & Machine at 20 Spaulding Ave., said the company has to compete for skilled applicants as there is a tremendous manufacturing presence in the state.
As a result, Shean said the company, which provides surface finish to a variety of items, strives to take care of its 16 employees, who are mostly long-term, and cross-trains them to make them more flexible and valuable.
“Job opportunities are tied to sales growth,” Shean said, adding 11 people visited the company Monday afternoon.
About 30 people visited Nantucket Beadboard, which produces architectural wood panels, Monday and Tuesday at its facility at 109 Chestnut Hill Road., said Tim Galvin, director of operations.
“The applications are very specific” Galvin said, adding the company is always looking for ways to expand the knowledge based in programming computer numerical control machines, used to operate the manufacturing machinery.
Galvin said they prefer to promote within, but he sees the potential to find new talent when employees move on or if the company expands.
“We have almost a zero turnover rate,” Galvin said, adding most of the dozen employees have been with the company since it started in 2000.
Mike McGreevey, president of Agility Manufacturing, at 279 Locust St. in Dover, said the pool of skilled workers has diminished as large manufacturers, such as Cabletron, Flextronics and Lockheed, “shrunk or have gone away.”
Last year, McGreevey said the company, which currently has 45 employees who assemble circuit boards for other industries, was able to hire several people, including some who previously worked for them when business was better.
“While there isn’t a huge pool of workers … there are good workers out there,” McGreevey said. “We try to snatch them up.”
McGreevey said the company found success using the state’s on-the-job training program and from college internships and plans to look into working with the Dover Career Technical Center.
Shean, Galvin and McGreevey all agree the current educational structure — at the high school and college level — offers the right skills to prepare students to enter the manufacturing workforce.
Dave Robbins, director of the Richard Creteau Regional Technical Center in Rochester, said everyone needs a strong education to succeed in life, especially in the realm of advanced manufacturing. Nonetheless, he noted that the tech center offers the only precision machining course at the high school level in the state.
“The industry is exploding at a rapid pace,” Robbins said.