Howard Jones needs training programs for the 330 employees at Smiths Medical. He also needs more workers.
But he has a big problem: any training happens too far away from the Keene plant.
Jones shared his problem at a recent manufacturing and high-tech summit in Concord.
Beth Doiron listened.
Within days, Doiron had someone reach out from the Community College System of New Hampshire, where she works. Doiron said community colleges can provide customized training for businesses, sometimes on-site.
“This could be a good solution and (we) will be able to evaluate further once we have the meeting,” with a community college official, Jones said in an email last week.
Chalk it up at least partly to New Hampshire being a small state, where meeting face-to-face with decision makers can bulldoze roadblocks more quickly than in bigger states.
“I think the business summits offer awareness of options that may not be as visible through other options,” said Jones, the site director of operations for Smiths Medical. “This is why I went to this summit and will go back next year as well.”
Jones told business leaders at the summit that training programs often require his workers to endure round-trip commutes of up to three hours to locations along the Interstate 93 corridor.
Jones afterward said he is trying to convince the company’s Minnesota headquarters to expand on the 154-acre Keene campus.
Having sufficient training nearby “will be an enabler for future growth at the Keene campus,” Jones said.
Employers around the state are having trouble finding workers to meet customer demands and are looking to train their existing workforce to take on additional responsibility, Doiron said. “Training needs for employers are increasing and often include classroom training, on-the-job training or both,” she said.
We asked Doiron how the community college system can assist Smiths Medical.
It “can help with these concerns by offering short-term, customized, low-cost training for businesses,” she said.
“Training can take place at the business, on the college campus or online,” she said. The schools also can help businesses develop an apprenticeship program that includes on-the-job training, she said.
Looks like training could be coming to Keene — paving the way for higher skilled workers and creating more jobs.
Hiking wages to hire workers
One Manchester-area company raised its hourly rate by $3 an hour to $16 to try and fill an opening for assembly work recently.
“I have seen at least three in the last month jump their pay rate more than a dollar an hour,” said Kathleen Schancer, a staffing specialist at HW Staffing Solutions in Manchester.
“They’re pretty desperate,” Schancer said during an interview at a recent Manchester job fair targeting older workers.
Some employers are cutting older workers for younger ones, she said.
“There are people laying off and taking lesser candidates at lower pay rates,” Schancer said, declining to name names. “Some workers, seasoned workers, are not able to keep up with technology.”
Older workers, however, offer experience. “They have a work ethic that some younger candidates don’t have,” Schancer said.
Millennials? “They want more money. They want more benefits and they want more opportunities right out of the gate,” said Schancer, who called herself a “seasoned worker.”
There are more millennials in the state’s workforce than baby boomers, according to Brian Gottlob, director of the state Economic & Labor Market Information Bureau. Over the most recent 12 months, millennials outnumbered boomers by an estimated 5,000 (230,211 vs. 225,627), Gottlob said.
Schancer said new hires don’t always stick around.
“In the last week, I placed at least 10 (in jobs) — and five have fallen off due to inability to perform,” Schancer said. “They’re not willing to get up and go to work every day.”
How will employers snag new workers?
“It’s a combination of benefits and higher starting wages,” she said. “Also incentives. We’ll give you so much repayment on your debt.”
Jennifer Winfrey agreed that some companies need to hike pay, considering housing costs.
“When you’re charging $1,200 (a month) for two bedrooms, someone making $12 an hour isn’t going to pay that,” said Winfrey, a business development rep at the Job Center, a staffing agency with an office in Manchester.
Winfrey was looking to fill more than 20 openings, including manufacturing, warehouse, light industry and assembly-line operators.
“The candidate pool is very shallow compared to what it used to be,” she said.
The work ethic among workers isn’t as high as it was in past decades, when jobs were less plentiful.
Today, she said: “People just walk off the job — no notice.”
The job fair targeting older workers attracted 303 job seekers, less than half the number who turned out for a similar job fair last year.
66 and returning to work
By age 66, many people would be thinking about throttling back from work.
But Christy Slavik Hamilton, who retired from her Massachusetts teaching job a few years back, was looking for work at the Manchester job fair.
“Time to get back in the game,” she said.
“I feel like when you have skills or talent, you should use it,” said the Manchester resident who spent 40 years in education. “There’s lots of kids out there that need good teachers.”
Hamilton, who taught fifth-graders, said she hoped to work with students who struggle to read or have special needs.
“I’m not doing it to pay my rent,” she said.
Question: Which profession in New Hampshire features the highest median age for workers?
Answer: Try real estate, at age 52.
Workers for utilities and in transportation/warehousing tied at age 50. Government and manufacturing came in at age 49.
Others included health care (47) retail (41) and accommodations/food services (27), according to Brian Gottlob, director of the state’s Economic & Labor Market Information Bureau.