JAMESTOWN, NY (WNY News Now) — The lack of skilled workers combined with minimum wage increases is becoming a problem for manufacturing businesses in Jamestown.
The state of the manufacturing industry was highlighted during a visit to WeberKnapp, an industrial hinge innovator, in Jamestown.
Congressman Nick Langworthy (R NY-23) met with Weber Knapp President Rhonda Johnson and Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier Executive Director Todd Tranum last Friday for a roundtable discussion and to tour the plant.
“I guess the thing I always want people to know about manufacturing is it’s not just a machinist, it’s not just a welder. You come in, I say this to Todd all the time, it’s like a well-stocked mall,” said President of WeberKnapp Rhonda Johnson.
One of the biggest issues recognized by the group is the lack of people wanting to join the workforce.
“You have to have the education in place, you have to have the people that are hungry to learn that skill, the more the minimum wage goes up, the less incentive there is for some people to want to gain a skill,” Johnson said. “You can make a really good wage, raise your family, and have a good quality of life so we need to get more people in to understand that.”
“A lot of people don’t know how incredibly important of an economic development engine that manufacturing is. And with that, the only thing that keeps that engine running is people. We can innovate, we can put in co-bots, we can put in a variety of processes, but you still need people,” explained Executive Director of the Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier Todd Tranum.
Last week, a technology fueled competition called STEM Wars took place at SUNY JCC to try and entice youth interest in the field.
“I’m going to do my part and we’re going to invest in workforce development and I’m going to fight for every dollar we can find to plug into programs like that because we can create the pipeline but it takes leadership to go to young people and talk about the virtues and careers in manufacturing and strengthen your community,” Congressman Langworthy explained.
In order to help, the Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier is launching a new program to track high school students interested in entering the manufacturing field through college. The goal would be to entice them to return home after school to work locally at a company like WebberKnapp.