Companies need to look to the MiLL
By Carolyn Stephen

Over the next decade it is expected that 3.4 million manufacturing jobs will have to be filled. The news of more job availability indicates the growth of manufacturing, but companies face a major problem. Despite the large projection in the number of jobs, 2 million are expected to remain empty due to the large skills gap. There will be 2.7 million baby boomers in manufacturing that will retire, but only 1.4 million jobs will then be filled.

The issue in the shortage of skilled workers has not gone unnoticed by manufacturing executives, in fact, 84 percent of executives agree there is a shortage of skilled employees in the manufacturing field.

Les Smith, Market Development Manager at Sherwin Williams Performance Coatings, agrees that the field is in need of trained employees. However, hiring new employees is no easy process. It could take up to 90 days to recruit a highly skilled worker. Once hired, an employee would have to go through training and development.

“One of the biggest struggles for companies is retaining and holding onto employees,” said Smith.

There are many ways to hold onto employees, mainly through development strategies. Three of the best strategies manufacturing executives agree on are through on-the-job training, local schools, or through certification programs. The Manufacturing Industry Learning Lab (MiLL) encompasses these three strategies, allowing companies to tap into a pool of skilled individuals who already show a strong interest in manufacturing and construction.

The MiLL gives young students an early start in developing their manufacturing, construction, and cabinet making skills. With the help of partnerships with outside companies and organization, like Sherwin Williams, the MiLL is able to equip students with needed technical skills that employers are looking for, but also gives real world advice in how to navigate the workplace.

“Technical skills are always a plus. Though, the MiLL is setting up their students with both soft and technical skills. They teach students what to do in an interview and how to handle problems with other employees and internal issues. In the industry, there are standards and expectations and the MiLL teaches all this to their students,” said Smith.

The manufacturing industry should be paying close attention to the MiLL and the students who enroll there. The MiLL sets up students to learn, even past graduation, and brings motivation to the industry. Companies have already seen this immense potential in the MiLL’s students. Another company that has made a strong effort to connect to the MiLL and its students is Concepts In Millwork, Inc. (CIMI). 

Rhynel Evans, Human Resources Manager at Concepts In Millwork, Inc., heads the internship program for the MiLL and CIMI. Evans describes the importance of an internship for the wood manufacturing and construction field as it “provides opportunity for the intern to get a really good grasp of the expectations and overall, what the job entails. It also gives us a larger recruiting pool for future employment opportunities.” Other companies should reach out to the MiLL and see the potential in the students in filling future jobs.

CIMI’s interest in partnering with the MiLL, as Evans states, is “the thought of exposing young adults to Concepts In Millwork, Inc.'s daily operations was very exciting to us. Keep in mind, our ultimate goal is keeping their passion in the woodworking industry ignited and eventually hiring them into our workforce.”

Students at the MiLL understand that the woodworking industry is constantly changing and they have to keep up to perform the best at their jobs. Companies that encourage students to continue learning will forge long-lasting skilled employees. The performance of the MiLL interns at CIMI has been successful as they currently have three full-time employees from the internship program.

The success of the MiLL students is due to the program that Dean Mattson has created and the staff that believes in the curriculum. Evans believes the success of the MiLL is because of Mattson’s vision and passion for the program.

“Dean Mattson genuinely wants the students to be successful not only in the workforce but in life. Also, the overwhelming support that is provided from the school districts and corporate partners has also played an instrumental part in the success of the preparation,” said Evans.

It is vital that the industry have conversations in bringing the MiLL to their area. The MiLL has plans to grow across the nation and if companies were to be part of this growth, it would expedite the process. Sherwin Williams values their partnership with the MiLL and aiding to train future students for the industry. Companies like Sherwin Williams and more that are looking for new avenues to train employees should look to the MiLL.

The MiLL shouldn’t be a secret to the woodworking and construction industry. Evans attests to the success of the MiLL as “it is providing training of a skill set that is becoming more difficult to locate in the woodworking and construction industries. The MiLL will become one of the primary sources of recruiting opportunities for all positions within the industry in the near future.”

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