On April 19, 2012, HCPED hosted the 5th Annual Industrial Executives Forum at Blue Ridge Community College. The event was sponsored by FGP International and PSNC Energy. Over 125 plant managers, community stakeholders and elected officials gathered to learn and provide valuable insight into the condition of Henderson County’s workforce. A diverse group of speakers included, Tom Tveidt, Syneva Economics; Bill Medlin, Legacy Paddlesports; Terry Collins, GE Lighting Solutions and Pam Howze, Training Manager for Siemens Corporation. Speakers provided remarks and answered questions pertaining to today’s most pressing labor trends and provided best practices to help employers identify, recruit, train and retain quality workers. After formal presentations, participants gathered in small groups to provide direct feedback regarding their individual workforce needs and ideas.
A few weeks after the Forum, the Planning Committee, a group of senior leadership from Blue Ridge Metals Corp., BorgWarner, Clement Pappas, Manual Woodworkers & Weavers and SELEE met to review responses and discuss next steps. Two major trends surfaced in the data and feedback.
First, the need to elevate the visibility of manufacturing as a viable career path was obvious. Many manufacturers felt that they should place a greater emphasis on connecting with Henderson County’s public school system, initially through greater participation in internship and job shadowing activities. Other ideas included a marketing effort to communicate available jobs, as well as the wages/benefits and path for qualifying for those jobs. The final idea that had traction was the idea of a Manufacturing Open House, kind of like a parade of homes, but for employers.
The second item identified by small group participants and the planning committee was the lack of use of existing apprenticeship opportunities. The current program in place has not been accessed in a meaningful way by local manufacturers. The committee suggested that local employers must take more responsibility in building an interactive approach to apprenticeship, integrating scholarship opportunities, coursework components and employment – similar to the Apprenticeship 2000 model.
Utilizing these observations, the planning committee and HCPED staff are working to develop next steps which will connect these points of interest with tangible programming designed to bolster the manufacturing sector in Henderson County.