For ControlTek, that opportunity has had a lot of different faces over the years. We began small with an internship program for teenage children of ControlTek employees during summer. The goal of the program was to offer young people the opportunity at a ‘real’ first job and expose them to career opportunities in manufacturing. Most recently, the Southwest Workforce Development Council (SWWDC) presented us with their “Manufacturing Workforce Plan.” The plan stressed the importance of a widespread effort to improve the quality of the regional workforce. We discovered we could become involved in our community in a much larger way, and we jumped at the chance.
From partnering with educators at Washington State University, Clark College and local high school STEM education programs to involvement at the policy level working in an advisory position with governmental agencies like the Regional Career Technical Education Board, we are working to ensure today’s students are prepared with a standard education plus the basic workplace skills they’ll need after graduation. We are expanding our internship programs and are working with SWWDC to develop on-the-job training opportunities for the long-term unemployed.
At the student level, these relationships provide value for our business simply by raising awareness of career opportunities in manufacturing. Many students today have limited exposure to the career opportunities available in manufacturing, or don’t recognize our industry as a viable career path. By participating in programs that bring us into direct contact with students, we put a face to an industry they may have heard little about during their education.
The internal development of employees who show interest and ability to progress from entry level positions is another form of elevating our economy. Keeping employees happy, stimulated and hopeful for their future through advancement opportunity makes them more flexible and equips them with a higher skill level. Businesses benefit from a flexible, highly-skilled workforce, making this investment a long-term benefit for our economy.
In our organization, we were able to invest in training through a MISTI Grant, obtained in partnership with the SWWDC, to provide industry specific training for our program managers. We’ve seen a direct response from the training as employees gained greater understanding of their job and a more strategic view of their role within the company. We are able to pass those benefits on to our customers.
Being able to work with public agencies to provide guidance on basic job skills helps prepare students for the transition to the workforce. Providing real-work experience can close the skills gap in manufacturing. Our industry must work together to close the skills gap and create a larger pool of qualified applicants in order to remain competitive globally.
When it comes to workforce development, we’re not involved in this solely as ControlTek the organization; we’re involved as an industry, a region and a country. We are working together to improve our economy by elevating our workers and providing new opportunities for advancement that positively impact people over the course of their career. By taking an active role in advancing available resources, we’re each lending a hand to support the community we live in.
Stacey LaFrazia Smith is the vice president of human resources and marketing for ControlTek in Vancouver. To learn more about the company, visit www.controltek.com.