Information sourced from a press release, file photos:
Wyoming County is commonly known as a leader in the agricultural industry, but it is not well known that manufacturing is one of the county’s top business sectors. The county is home to approximately 50 unique manufacturers making products that range from automatic girth welders used on oil storage tanks around the world, products used in the automotive industry, to baked goods stocked on Jet Blue airplanes.
On Oct. 5 Wyoming County will celebrate Manufacturing Day – a nationwide grassroots movement dedicated to overcoming the shared challenges facing manufacturers today. Officials say it’s a way to recognize and highlight the contributions manufacturing makes to the economy of the county.
Manufacturing has experienced unprecedented growth in Wyoming County in metals-based manufacturing jobs since 2010, Wyoming County Chamber & Tourism President Scott Gardner says. This increase is due to the workforce, low energy and operational costs, and easy access to 50 percent of North America’s population. According to DataUSA, manufacturing jobs represent 13.5 percent of the workforce in Wyoming County. Our manufacturers employ more than 2,500 workers, 40 percent above the national average, and those workers on average earn $56,516 per year.
However, one of the most pressing issues facing manufacturers today is finding skilled labor. The gap between job requirements and applicant’s skill set is leaving 600,000 manufacturing jobs unfilled in the United States.
Manufacturers' ability to address this gap has been hindered by the public perception that careers in manufacturing are undesirable and by insufficient preparatory education. Both of these problems stem from a lack of understanding of present-day manufacturing environments, which are highly technical, officials say.
Manufacturing today includes highly trained, well-paid employees who work on state-of-the-art equipment, although the perception persists that they are often viewed as antiquated factories designed for low-skilled workers. This change in public perception is the first step in addressing one of the main challenges faced by manufacturers today – a gap in skilled labor.
“We are very pleased and fortunate to have a solid manufacturing base right here in the county,” Gardner said. “We recognize the economic contributions these companies are making every day, and their commitment to the workforce of Wyoming County. We also recognize that these companies also need a skilled labor force and environment that is friendly to business.”
One of the main reasons motivating Manufacturing Day is to introduce students to the potential of manufacturing careers. The event is a chance to spark student interest in manufacturing that could lead to further studies, a new generation of skilled workers, and an eventual closing of the skills gap. Giving students early exposure to manufacturing careers is critically important to ensuring a long-term talent pipeline.
“It’s a constant pleasure to visit and work with many of our manufacturers and it’s always a treat for me to see firsthand the products that are made here and witness the pride the workforce takes in their work and the satisfaction they realize knowing their quality products are being sold throughout the world,” said Wyoming County Industrial Development Agency Executive Director James Pierce.
“The general public drives by these businesses every day but does not have a notion of what amazing things are going on behind the walls. That is why Manufacturing Day was created, to raise the awareness and importance of manufacturing.”
More than 64 percent of students in career and technical education (CTE) programs say that their own interests and personal experiences are the greatest influence on their future career decisions.
A recent Public Policy Institute survey reported New York employers say, STEM positions (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) are the most difficult to fill. Additionally, the projection is that these workforce shortages will persist over the coming decade. Skilled production is the category in which they anticipate the most severe ongoing shortage.
STEM positions comprise four of the top five categories of positions that New York employers are finding most difficult to fill.
The national average age of a skilled worker in manufacturing is 56, according to a Manufacturing Institute report. The study also projects a shortage of two million workers between 2015 and 2025.
Employers responding to the Public Policy Institute survey also predict severe shortages in engineering and information technology occupations. They anticipate a more moderate shortage in mathematics-intensive occupations. These are the same top four workforce categories employers reported the highest difficulty filling jobs currently. However, they are more optimistic about occupations such as social science and architecture.
To bring more awareness to the issue this year, in cooperation with the Wyoming County Industrial Development Agency and Business Education Council, the Wyoming County Chamber is inviting area students in ninth and 10th grades to visit three local manufacturing businesses, Morton Salt in Silver Springs, Advanced Rubber Products in Wyoming, and the Marquart Company in Gainesville.
“We are excited to show our students the exciting opportunities that a career in manufacturing can provide them as they are making their future career choices,” said Wyoming County Business Education Council Executive Director Linda Leblond. “We want to keep our talented youth right here in Wyoming County. Each business is unique in the types of jobs and manufacturing processes that take place and will offer students an up-close look at potential job opportunities.”
To learn more about Manufacturing Day, visit www.mfgday.com. For additional information on manufacturing in Wyoming County, call the Chamber at (585) 786-0307 or the IDA at (585) 786-3764.