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Business roundtable at Salem High School focuses on future workforce

Union Leader correspondent

February 11. 2014 10:22PM

SALEM — It was fitting that Monday morning's roundtable discussion on advanced manufacturing in the state with Gov. Maggie Hassan and Department of Resources and Economic Development director Jeffrey Rose was held in the Three Season's Restaurant of Salem High School's Career and Technical Education department.
The meeting was one of several held by Hassan and DRED officials seeking input from local manufacturing businesses, community officials, and educators about how the state can best help create a better economic environment for those businesses.
High energy and health care costs were among the concerns raised by several business leaders, but the majority of the conversation centered on making sure the state can help provide an educated and adaptable workforce that can fill the advanced manufacturing jobs.
"Our goal is to help your businesses grow and to help create jobs that can help the middle class grow," Hassan said.
The governor said she is working with educators to make sure students in New Hampshire have the science, technology, and math skills needed to succeed.
"We're also working to make sure young people can communicate and collaborate well," Hassan said.
Michael Woodbury of Sparton Technology Corp. in Hudson said his company has worked with local schools and colleges about how it can help create a stronger workforce for the future.
"We've worked closely with vocational schools, and that has worked great and yielded some good results," Woodbury said.
Several of the business leaders noted that the advanced manufacturing of today often focuses on technology and is not the kind of dark and dirty job that many picture when thinking of the manufacturing companies of the past.
It was also noted that advanced manufacturing can provided good jobs for qualified workers right out of high school.
"From an educational point of view, there is no reason that we can't hire people right out of high school if they have the appropriate math, science and English skills," said Peter Alcock, a consultant with Sparton.
Salem High School principal Tracy Collyer said it was good to hear that businesses are looking for students who are hardworking and willing to learn.
"Being able to communicate and collaborate and writing skills will be needed in any job they want to pursue," she said.
Although New Hampshire does face some challenges in the manufacturing and business world, one thing it does not lack is good people, said Greg Biederman, the president and CEO of Manchester-based Nylon Corp. of America.
"The biggest competitive edge we have is the people of New Hampshire," Biederman said. "If the playing field is level, we have the Yankee ingenuity to beat the other guys."
Hassan thanked Biederman for his comment and noted that the people of the state are remarkable.
The governor also addressed the concern that the state has to do more to keep young, educated people in the state. However, she noted that many people do return to New Hampshire once they are a little older and decide to raise a family.
"That speaks to the quality of life here," Hassan said.

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