Newsmakers focus on jobs, early and often
Finding qualified job candidates and developing the next generation of workers are priorities so manufacturers can remain viable in the future, experts said Thursday.
An ongoing worry for many suburban manufacturers involves finding qualified candidates. Many companies already have made connections with local high schools and community colleges. But until that next generation of workers finds their niche and proper training, many manufacturers will worry about filling positions, they said.
"Finding good, tech-oriented personnel is key now, because most of those workers have retired now and the new generation has not kept up with the expertise that's needed," said Kathryn Miller, owner and president of HST Materials Inc. in Elk Grove Village.
Mentoring, cross training, apprenticeships, school-related internships and other programs should be expanded, Miller and others said.
Miller was joined by other panelists at the Daily Herald Business Ledger Newsmakers' Forum Thursday. About 130 business leaders, chamber officials and others attended the event at Avalon Banquets in Elk Grove Village.
Other panelists were Craig Johnson, mayor of Elk Grove Village; John Sassaris, group president of commercial banking of MB Financial Bank in Chicago; Steve Czajkowski, application engineering manager for motion control at Siemens Industry in Elk Grove Village; and Steven R. Goluch, principal of Weiss & Co., LLP in Glenview.
Besides finding qualified job candidates, Miller encouraged young women to enter what is a male-dominated industry because of the opportunities to earn a good living.
"We had one woman engineer from Olivet and she was recommended by Elk Grove High School, and she was our best candidate. She didn't realize all that was available in manufacturing."
"But there's still a talent gap, and kids aren't really ready to go into manufacturing," Sassaris said.
He stressed that students should explore other educational opportunities that could get their foot into manufacturing.
Goluch addressed various tax credits and other tax-related issues for manufacturers that should be thoroughly explored. But don't look for anything new just yet related to tax relief.
"Congress is not getting anything out yet and it isn't likely that any tax package will happen until after the election," Goluch said.
Czajkowski said developing new talent is key to manufacturing's future, especially as the use of robotics becomes more widespread.
"Three years ago, when I saw a lot of this at a trade show, it became the biggest draw," Czajkowski said. "Now they have robotics working with each other and they're coordinating the production lines."
Presenting sponsors for the event were Elk Grove Village, MB Financial Bank and Weiss & Co. LLP. Partnering associations were GOA Regional Business Association, Management Association of Illinois, Small Business Advocacy Council, MRA -- The Management Association, The Technology and Manufacturing Association, the Valley Industrial Association and Rolling Meadows Chamber of Commerce.