JERSEY CITY, N.J. - Two colleges, the Jersey City government, and architectural woodwork elite Eastern Millwork are teaming up to offer local students a tuition-free state-of-the-art apprenticeship program - guaranteeing $70,000 salaries to each student after graduation.
 
The five high school students selected for the five-year program will begin working for Eastern Millwork in July. Students will work three days every week at Eastern and attend classes twice a week. One class will be held at Hudson Community College. The other will be held on site at Eastern Millwork, where students will be taught remotely by professors at Pittsburg State University in Kansas. Pittsburg State is known around the country for its woodworking prestige.
 
Each year, students' salaries will increase, with pay beginning at $24,500 and benefits. Upon receiving their bachelor's degrees, salaries will reach $70,000.
 
Eastern Millwork uses advanced software and extreme automation to streamline its workflow, reducing labor costs and improving installation speed and precision.
Eastern Millwork President told the Wall Street Journal that the program is the result of his company's inability to find skilled workers - especially workers capable of using automation and robots to build high-level custom millwork for clients like Goldman Sachs.
 
Pittsburg State also offers a "Woodworking Boot Camp" - a four-year professional woodworking program condensed into five days.
Campbell, Pittsburg State, and Hudson Community College worked closely to develop a curriculum. See the full story in the Wall Street Journal.
 
The inability to find both skilled and unskilled labor is a problem plaguing many manufacturing industries. In a Woodworking Network survey, 80 percent of professional woodworkers polled say the company they run or work for is having trouble finding workers.
 
Low unemployment rates, rural shop locations, and millennial low interest and work ethic are just a few of the causes, according to many wood product executives.
 
How are our readers coping?
 
Over 65 percent say they are raising starting pay. Some say they are adding sign-on bonuses and jacking up vacation, sick days, and benefits.
 
42 percent said they are lowering hiring standards. Ex-cons, former addicts, and at-risk individuals previously ruled out are now being considered.
 
Over 37 percent say they are working with high schools, technical schools, and colleges to develop talent. 32 percent are granting young employees more accommodating schedules and nearly 17 percent are offering financial incentives to employees who refer workers.
 
Many commented that they are using ads on Craigslist, Facebook, Indeed.com, ZipRecruiter, and other social media and job sites. Others are avoiding hiring altogether by giving current employees more responsibility or by turning down work. One commenter wrote he is "praying for immigration to increase."
 
We asked the 20 percent who said they are not having trouble finding workers how they're doing it.
 
"We have a strong vetting process when hiring and we work together as a team, which leads to very little turnover."
 
"I use current employees as resources for finding workers."
 
"Culture, pay, benefits are on par with opportunities at winning companies outside of our industry."
 
We also asked readers what they believe is causing the labor shortage.  Most said an overall lack of interest was the main reason. That was followed closely by schools not doing enough to expose students, as well as pressure for young people to go to college and get urban skills.

 

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