Dream It Do It and Jobs

Jobs, jobs, jobs. That is what is on people’s minds. Today, I attended a press conference at the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology in East Hartford, Connecticut. CCAT is a two-minute drive from our main plant, so it was very convenient. Of course, given the topic, skilled manufacturing labor, I would have driven farther to learn more about the program that was kicked off by US Congressman John Larson.

Dream It Do It isn’t a new program. Launched in 2005, it has penetrated 17 states and according to the literature, in Connecticut it “will be aimed at addressing the growing shortage of highly skilled workers through a campaign to promote a clear understanding of today’s advanced manufacturing workplace.” That is music to my ears because Horst Engineering is that kind of workplace.

Emily STover DeRocco, President of The Manufacturing Institute, an organization, that for some reason, I had never heard of; spoke about the need to introduce skills to a new generation of manufacturing workers. She was followed by a friend of mine, Doug Rose, of Aero Gear. Doug runs an excellent business. He spoke about the need to solve one of our biggest challenges, the lack of skilled labor. He mentioned the “graying of the workforce” and said that there were at least eight manufacturers in the room who would hire two to three new employees if the supply was available.

Doug said that even in the deepest part of the recession, manufacturers in Connecticut were hurting for good help. A 40 year decline in support for manufacturing has left the industry in tough shape. The large companies outsourced, offshored, and laid off people, but during those years, small manufacturers rose up. Many of us have grown into substantial operations, though we remain small. Aero Gear has 140 employees. Horst Engineering has 75 in Connecticut and 30 at our maquiladora in Sonora, Mexico.

Our companies are hiring, but we need good people who are a match for our cultures. My hopes are that Dream It Do It isn’t just another program. We need results. We need someone to coordinate the good organizations that are already working on the problem. They have some recent success that we need to build on. More support from fellow manufacturers, more support from educators, more support from the government, and more support from communities is needed.

Of course, the biggest thing we need is for the perception that manufacturing is a dead-end career, to change. Manufacturing is high-tech and it is a good sector to be in. We need to train our youth to realize that and take advantage of the opportunities that manufacturers offer.

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