October Event Connects Educators to Local Manufacturer's Needs

Posted by: rlaccmarcom on Monday, November 10, 2014
By: Brad Phillips
Vice-President Marketing Communications

Workforce Development:

Workforce education and skilled labor supply are quickly becoming "hot button" workforce development issues around Northwest Arkansas as well as across the nation. The Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce is working hard to address these issues which represent important factors
that contribute to the continued future growth of our area. On October 14, the Chamber's K2J (Kindergarten-to-Job) Connect event brought area educators together with local manufacturers to discuss and learn more about these issues and to showcase what modern manufacturing careers
are all about.

Education System Part of the Skilled Labor Solution
K2J Connect was hosted by Kennametal in Rogers, a company that delivers productivity to customers seeking peak performance in demanding environments by providing innovative custom and standard wear-resistance solutions. The event offered the 20 educators in attendance (including principals, teachers, college professors, and guidance counselors) an opportunity to learn about the workforce needs in our area, tour the facility, and have an open conversation with local manufacturers about how the skilled labor issue may be addressed through the education system. Raymond Burns, President/CEO of the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce stressed the importance of events like this saying, “Workforce issues impact all industries across Rogers and Northwest Arkansas and our job at the Chamber is to help address them and find solutions before they become a serious problem.”

Educators Learn Importance of Manufacturing Careers
The K2J Connect attendees started the day by hearing from Mike Harvey, COO of the Northwest Arkansas Council who works closely with the region's chambers of commerce to help carry out the mission of delivering high-quality job growth. Harvey spoke on the types of workforce in Northwest Arkansas and importance of trained workers with skills that area employers need to fill open positions.

He pointed out that helping employers fill these needs will help grow the local economy. Harvey also showed statistics of job growth in Northwest Arkansas over the past 20 years and explained what fields had experienced the most job growth and most job losses.  His presentation was very well received by the educators and enlightening. For example, one educator commented that he had not thought much about the future impact of our current workforce retiring in 10 to 20 years and the need it creates for younger workers to eventually replace those that are retiring, especially in manufacturing.  Another educator commented about the opportunities available in manufacturing, “After seeing that the average wages for these manufacturing jobs in the area are so high, I think I’m in the wrong career.”  It's a testament to the new, modern manufacturing careers available to young people today.

C.E. Murrell, Plant Manager of Kennametal, took the educators on a plant tour to show that modern manufacturing is much different than many people believe.  One educator came back from the tour and said, “It was so clean and orderly.  I could have worn a white dress, walked through the entire facility, and come back without a spot on me.”  Another educator commented on the impressive machinery found throughout the plant and said that he didn’t realize the high tech nature of manufacturing today.

Manufacturers Express Workforce Needs
Following the educators' tour, executives from Rogers-based manufacturers came in for a facilitated small group discussion with the educators. The dialogue between the manufacturers and educators focused on the needs that employers have and the difficulties faced in filling open positions. The educators talked about what they could do to help get students more interested in manufacturing-related careers and the types of positions that are available throughout Northwest Arkansas. Whitney Yoder, Vice President of Development for the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce said the event was successful at starting the conversation, “It was great to see ideas being exchanged and discussions taking place between the manufacturers and educators. This is a huge step in the right direction for addressing these issues facing our area.”

The K2J Connect event is a Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce initiative and a very big
“Thank You” is in order to Kennametal for hosting the first event at their facility.  Regarding the event, Burns noted that, “This is just the beginning of our process and more of these types of events will continue to be done addressing workforce development needs of the region.”  Yoder added, “The feedback we received from the attendees was exceptional and demonstrated an interest from both educators and manufacturers in doing more of these K2J Connect events in the future.”
If you or your business are interested in hosting a future K2J Connect event or having educators and students tour your facility and speak to you about your workforce needs, contact Whitney Yoder or Steve Cox at (479) 636-1240.


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