On Wednesday, February 1st, 121 professionals gathered on the Hawkeye Community College main campus (Waterloo, IA) to discuss current issues related to 21st century manufacturing. This conference was sponsored by the CedarValley Manufacturers Association and Geater Machining and Manufacturing. Industrial companies from across the state were in attendance, some traveling from as far away as Pella and Elkader, along with several representatives from other Iowa community colleges and K-12 school districts.
Manufacturing has been all over the news lately, even today, as national unemployment numbers were released. January brought a major gain in jobs for the country, and more than 50,000 of those jobs were related to manufacturing. The companies gathered in Tama Hall on Wednesday seemed to be projecting similar futures, with some needing more than three dozen new employees in the next three months.
This high-growth trend in the area, brought the topic of recruiting new students to manufaturing programs to the forefront of many discussions. Area educators and students presented to the group their concerns for the status of the manufacturing industry among today's teens. Presenters also discussed how manufacturing companies could change their image and communication strategies to better appeal to today's "high-tech, social" generation.
Hawkeye Community College shared its vision for new recruitment techniques for skilled trades, and new strategic steps were revealed for marketing the industry to the public including the production of a streaming video with current manufacturing facts, available next month.
Two growing companies were also able to share their history and best practices with the group including event-sponsor Geater Machining and Manufacturing (Independence, IA) and Life Line Emergency Vehicles (Sumner, IA). Audience members were able to relate to their tales of weathering hard times, embracing new technology, and now preparing for pending growth and retirements.
At the end of the day, the room was filled with appreciation for the prosperity many of the companies were experiencing and renewed determination to draw a new generation of talent to this vibrant industry.