Lakes Region Manufacturing Week

At work, we’ve been organizing an event that I wanted to share with all our readers: Lakes Region Manufacturing Week, March 11-15. We’ve lined up tours and open houses at eight different high-tech manufacturing facilities; open houses at Lakes Region Community College and the Huot Technical Center to showcase their advanced manufacturing programs; and a career exploration panel for high school students focused on careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) & manufacturing. I’m super nervous because I’ve put tons of time into this and have absolutely no idea how many people will participate! I’m hopeful that it will be a success and that we’ll be able to do it again next year with even more manufacturers on the roster.

I hope that this event hits home to people how great these companies are and how much they have to offer. It’s tough because manufacturing used to be huge in the Lakes Region, as in many other parts of NH. Mills and factories all over the place. Just 15 years ago, we had 8,000+ people working in manufacturing. It was even more before that. Now we are down to a little over 4,000 due to rapid technological advances and changes in the industry. All those layoffs left a bad taste in people’s mouths and, to be honest, I think many folks in our community kind of wrote the industry off all together.

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The thing that is critical to know is that, yes, a lot of manufacturing jobs have left the Northeast (and the country too for that matter). But the stuff that stayed, those are all the high-end products that require a lot of precision and highly skilled people to make them. They are never going to be outsourced. Yes, technology will continue to change and impact the industry, but there is a lot of growth potential at these companies. Despite the recession, they have all experienced significant growth.

We hear so much about the “skills gap” that these companies are facing. I hope people don’t tune that out because it is real and you know what it means for young people? Opportunity. There is so much opportunity in this field! It’s painfully obvious that the manufacturing workforce is aging – anytime you step on the production floor at one of these facilities you see way more folks in their 50s and 60s than in their 20s and 30s. But these companies want young people and the new programs being developed at all the community colleges in NH give people several different pathways to enter this field, some of which won’t cost you much money at all.

So even if you got a degree in English or Anthropology and you think there is no way this applies to you: if you are young and unemployed, you should check out this field. Many of these employers will take you if you have the right attitude and they will help you get the training you need to be successful. The jobs are not what you might think. They require creativity, problem-solving, teamwork, and utilize lots of cool technology – aren’t those characteristics a lot of us look for in a job? If you want a really low-pressure, free way to check this field out, come to Lakes Region Manufacturing Week!