ROCKFORD — The Technology and Manufacturing Association’s new chairman today encouraged small regional manufacturers to tout the vitality of their industry and its worthiness as a career.
Jim Carr, who is also president and owner of CARR Machine & Tool Inc. in Elk Grove Village, stopped by Stockholm Inn for a breakfast roundtable with about 35 manufacturers from around the Rock River Valley. The event — Carr’s first since becoming TMA’s 79th chairman March 3 — was one of nine Chicago-area networking functions he intends to host during his tenure as chairman.
Carr said he selected Rockford for his first event because of the large number of small manufacturers who call the region home. Attracting smaller shops — those with 25 or fewer employees — to TMA is something Carr said will be a focus for him during his time as chairman. He said it’s sometimes tough for such machinists to network and become part of the larger manufacturing community because of the demands of running a small business.
An advocate of social media marketing, Carr said the most important thing machining leaders could do to improve the industry is educate the public about manufacturing careers.
“People just don’t know that it’s a viable choice,” he said.
Many manufacturers talked about the challenges of recruiting and retaining skilled workers — especially millennials. Some said they give students tours of their shops or sponsor school robotics teams in order to draw young talent.
Charles Kluzak, a manufacturer-turned-teacher at Jefferson High School, encouraged the machinists to put their best foot forward when recruiting young people. He said students in his manufacturing classes respond best when sales and marketing representatives come and sell them on the industry.
Carr encouraged the manufacturers to keep recruiting young people and suggested engaging with Facebook and Twitter — Carr himself co-hosts a machining podcast — as a potential way to do so.
“Within five to 10 years, all of the baby boomers will be retired and out of the industry,” Carr said after the roundtable. “They (comprise) a huge amount of our skilled labor force right now. There’s no backfill of younger people that are coming in. That’s why it’s just so important to get the word out about this industry and that it really is a viable career path.”
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