Minnesota Manufacturers: ‘We Need Employees’ | So Good News


5:19 p.m | Monday October 31st The year 2022

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) held a roundtable discussion Monday to discuss the need to attract more workers to the manufacturing sector.

Labor shortages are forcing changes not only in operations but also in the way manufacturers market themselves.

“I think there’s a misconception that it’s an endless job where you stand in front of equipment all day,” says George Chapple with Daikin. “There are a lot of opportunities for people if they really see manufacturing.”

Manufacturing is the state’s third largest industrial employer, providing more than 310,000 jobs, or 11 percent of the state’s workforce. The industry added 15,000 new jobs this year, according to statistics released by DEED.

“They have extraordinary careers within them and I think people don’t know as much about it,” said DEED Commissioner Steve Grove.

Economists also predict about 75,000 new jobs in the manufacturing sector over the next 10 years, Grove said.

But finding skilled workers to fill those jobs is proving to be a huge challenge. This has led some manufacturers to make significant investments in infrastructure and equipment.

“Automation isn’t replacing jobs, it’s replacing open positions that we can’t fill,” said Steve Kalina, president and CEO of the Plymouth-based Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association.

Kalina said automation has led to higher-paying jobs in the industry. According to data provided by St. Paul-based CareerForce, the median annual wage for workers in manufacturing is $74,630, 10 percent higher than all industries in Minnesota.

“The machinist is focusing on programming or doing the automation or troubleshooting, and the automation is doing the rest,” Kalina said. “I mean, that’s a big selling point for us, and now that we can pay more for those jobs, it’s just more value-add and a better reward.”

But automation leads to another challenge, Kalina said. Small 30-person shops don’t have the manpower and resources to deploy and manage automation, he said.

The state is trying to help with that. DEED is launching an automated loan program that provides low-interest financing to small and medium-sized businesses. Loans of up to $500,000 help companies with fewer than 500 employees purchase equipment or software to improve productivity.

“This is a truly unique program in Minnesota,” Grove said.

Minnesota work

Brooklyn Park has a high concentration of manufacturing jobs available to job seekers, DEED officials said.

‘The key to open the door’

Manufacturers told Monday’s virtual roundtable that manufacturing is “not as dirty a job” as it was decades ago, but they say that perception is hard to change, noting a decline in students attending tech schools across the state.

“We need employees,” said Mark Petersen with ITW Heartland in Alexandria.

Another producer described how the burden of training staff falls on employers themselves. Once practiced, it is hard to maintain.

“We have to find a way to motivate employees to want to stay, too,” said Lance Louis of Louis Industries in Paynesville.

Kalina’s organization in Plymouth is working on ways to open doors to non-traditional employees.

“It’s the key to open the door,” Kalina said.

But an increase in the manufacturing workforce could also change perceptions. He said it starts at a young age.

“What that means to me is that these students have a comfort level of not knowing whether it’s working at McDonald’s or getting a four-year degree,” Kalina said. “Some things in our society are still zombies. It will take a long time and a lot of effort to let them go.”

Also see: Manufacturing conference draws governor to Brooklyn Park

Brooklyn Park | Plymouth


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