Manufacturing experts seek to develop local workforce
October 2 — CHEYENNE – After discovering that more than 30 manufacturing companies decided not to move to Cheyenne last year, local experts are looking for ways to prevent this from happening again.
Less than 6% of Wyoming’s current GDP output comes from the manufacturing sector, but government officials and state business leaders are keen to increase that number. They say this is not due to a lack of interest on the part of companies, but rather a lack of skilled labor.
Officials at Laramie County Community College are among the first to interact with young adult high school graduates, and they are trying to find ways to fill this gap. The college offers programs and facilities to show students the inner workings of manufacturing and also hosts events to promote future opportunities.
On Friday, the LCCC hosted a conference and roundtable on the manufacturing sector. Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins also proclaimed October 1 as Laramie County Manufacturing Day. This is part of a month-long dive into the manufacturing industry and its benefits to the community.
“It is predicted that there will be more than 4 million jobs in the manufacturing sector by 2030,” said Kari Brown-Herbst, acting vice president of academic affairs at LCCC. “A lot of them will be here in Laramie County, and we are positioned in Cheyenne to be a manufacturing hub.”
To achieve this, however, experts say there must be a concerted effort to encourage participation and employment.
Rocky Case, center director of Manufacturing Works, a partnership of the University of Wyoming, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Wyoming Business Council, led the panel and said the lack of sufficient manpower is starting by the youth of Wyoming. He said he sees the shortage of employable residents due to the state’s biggest export – its young adults.
The other four local manufacturer representatives at the conference agreed, as they spent months researching candidates to hire for their own businesses.
William Coppinger of Thunder Beast Arms Corporation, said he had been looking for 10-20 workers for the past two years. Other manufacturers, like Nortrak and the local Accomplice brewery, have been looking for employees for months.
This has been a trend nationwide. Nationally, 77% of all manufacturers in the United States had unfilled jobs due to a reduced workforce, according to Brown-Herbst.
Maryellen Tast, Dean of the School of Outreach and Workforce Development at LCCC, wants to address this shortage by making better use of school resources. She said she sees the manufacturing industry as a creative and technological career field, very different from the stereotypical dark and moldy factories of the past.
The college is already making progress with its welding and agricultural industry programs, but the opportunities for advanced manufacturing are minimal. 3D printing services, business advice, and product manufacturing spaces are available at LCCC, but Tast said that’s not enough.
In the sixth penny sales tax ballot on November 2, voters will be asked to invest in a community resource dedicated to the manufacturing industry. Proposal 8 includes just over $ 3 million to establish an advanced materials and manufacturing center at LCCC.
If voters approve, the college would be able to offer courses and certification courses in skills such as project management, metal and plastic additive manufacturing, milling and lathe operations, and 3D modeling. After gaining training in these areas, students would likely be able to find employment quickly with an average starting salary of $ 57,280, according to an LCCC brochure.
“I think this will be a huge benefit for Laramie County and the surrounding counties,” said Coppinger of Thunder Beast Arms, “primarily for the high school students who want to stay”.
He said they can work in a well-equipped industry without a two or four year college degree, and are fortunate enough to work with their own hands.
Brian Gross, an engineer at Alliance Brew Gear in Cheyenne, said developing more manufacturing jobs would not only help residents at the individual level, but also generate wealth for the state. He saw the abandonment of the mining and quarrying industries in Wyoming and said the restructuring of the economy must take place for Wyoming to be successful in the future.
He and other pundits want to see Cheyenne set an example in Wyoming and start investing in the future of manufacturing.
“We’re going to have to fight our way out of this,” he said.
Jasmine Hall is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle education reporter. She can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 307-633-3167. Follow her on Twitter @jasminerhphotos and on Instagram @ jhrose25.