CANCUN, Mexico - Finding employees, training them, and keeping them from quitting, are among top concerns for woodworking machinery makers, and the wood manufacturing businesses that operate them. The subject has been the main topic under discussion at the Wood Industry Conference 2016, which ends April 15 in Cancun, Mexico.
The newest trial is attracting the interest of Millennial generation workers - those who are 18-32 years of age - and keeping them on the job.
The Woodworking Machinery Industry Association and the Wood Machinery Manufacturers of America, who gather each year for four days of brainstorming and networking at WIC, report they are having troubled finding mechanical engineers, computer programmers, and other technical employees, as well as workers in general. They are hearing the same lament from their wood manufacturing customers.
"I used to think I knew how to conduct an interview," says one equipment distributor. "Now I hire someone and after a few days there is trouble." Managers are reporting high rates of turnover, especially among young workers who are quick to leave if working conditions or corporate culture do not meet their expectations.
Differences also arise in comfort levels with technology. Younger workers, who are often described as digital natives, have little patience for older managers who are technical Luddites, or a corporate setting that sports inadequate technical infrastructure.
WMIA and WMMA took aim at these concerns with a program that directly addressed employee recruitment and retention, as well as technology sessions. Technology-focused sessions included, "What the Heck is the Cloud?" presented by the associations Technical Committee (it was sponsored by Woodworking Network) and "Cyber Risk from the Backroom to the Boardroom," presented by Malcom Harkins, a former Intel security executive who
Extremely popular was a session on the SkillsUSA program, "Career and Technical Educations Partnerships - Bridging the Skilled Worker Gap." It was presented by Tim Lawrence.
"Attracting and Retaining a New Generation of Employees" was addressed by Tim Moore, with emphasis on the conflicts that arise when Baby Boomer managers do not structure business operations and culture to appeal to Millennial workers.
Also in this vein, the Wooden Globe Educator of the Year Award went to the Woodwork Career Alliance, which has more than 1,000 high school and community college students engaged in programs that can lead to woodworking industry careers.
The WIC 2016 event is also a setting for planning and marketing the two major wood industry tradeshows, IWF 2016 (owned by WMMA and WMIA) and AWFS (the Las Vegas woodworking show). As well, numerous committees hold sessions at the Wood Industry Conference, while the boards of AWFS, WMMA, and WMIA stage annual meetings. AWFS used the event for a changing of the guard, with Archie Thompson of Spectrum Adhesives succeeding Wade Gregory as board president.
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