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Manufacturing the 21st Century Workforce

By Trish Kelly

Manufacturing is alive and growing in the Capital Region – just look at our new maker spaces, new manufacturing workforce programs at our community colleges, and K-12 kids participating in robotics programs!

With a skilled workforce, manufacturing can thrive, innovate and provide great “middle skill” jobs for workers across the region. As part of the Capital Region Workforce Action Plan, Valley Vision has been working with diverse partners, employers and stakeholders across the region to elevate awareness of career opportunities in manufacturing, close the manufacturing workforce skills gap and provide a voice for manufacturers. Valley Vision also supports the food and beverage manufacturing cluster as part of Central Valley AgPlus, through our federally designated program.

In September, Valley Vision held a well-attended and energetic manufacturing forum to explore workforce opportunities and challenges, in collaboration with the Power Inn Alliance, Sacramento City Council Member Eric Guerra, Los Rios Community College District, Sacramento State University, Hacker Lab, the Office of Congressman Ami Bera, and workforce boards. The Power Inn Alliance is home to more than 60% of Sacramento City’s manufacturing employment. Dubbed “Let’s Talk Manufacturing,” 120 employers, educators, and system partners gathered at Depot Park to hear from key employers about their most pressing workforce needs and skills gaps, priorities for development of new community college Career Education programs, and as importantly, to help form an ongoing network of employers, educators, economic development and workforce partners to advance manufacturing. In addition, participants had the opportunity to provide input for a new Sacramento Innovation Center to be located near Sacramento State University. The idea is to create a manufacturing ecosystem to connect students and workers to skills training and upgrading, from K-12 to higher education and maker spaces.

On Friday, October 6th we celebrated National Manufacturing Day 2017. Manufacturing events and activities held across the Capital region illustrate the vibrancy of modern day manufacturing, from innovative dairies/beverage producers and breweries large and small to highly sophisticated machining technology and global paper company. Over the course of the day Valley Vision participated in and/or helped organize four events highlighting and celebrating manufacturing careers at International Paper in Elk Grove, HP Hood in Sacramento, Claimstake Brewing Co. in Rancho Cordova, and the opening of the Haas Technical Education Center at Sierra College in Rocklin. The Center, according to Willie Duncan, President of Sierra College and Valley Vision board member, is the “most state of the art manufacturing lab at a community college anywhere.”

The visit to HPHood – with more than 260 employees and millions of dollars of investment in state of the art beverage producing facilities, followed the Marking your Mark Competition sponsored by the Power Inn Alliance to provide capacity support to a manufacturing entrepreneur over the coming year. This is a creative approach to growing new manufacturing companies and jobs, and Tracey Schaal, Executive Director, organized an innovative package of resources for the winner, Lifeline Lift. Trish Kelly, Valley Vision Managing Director, enjoyed the opportunity to participate as a judge in the Competition.

At Claimstake Brewing Co., participants were warmly welcomed by the city of Rancho Cordova Mayor Donald Terry, Council members and staff, the Chamber of Commerce, Supervisor Don Nottoli and owners Mike and Brian to tour this brewing facility and community gathering space, and hear about how we all need to work together to help companies grow by providing a skilled and ready workforce. The City is becoming a location for beverage manufacturing with a new Barrel District encompassing breweries, a meadery and a distillery. As Congressman Bera noted, “Each city and each county in the region has its own unique assets. Groups like Valley Vision and others are facilitating those conversations…There’s no reason Sacramento can’t be at the center of it all.” Thank you to the City of Rancho Cordova, the Rancho Cordova Chamber of Commerce, and the California Manufacturers & Technology Association for partnering and making this event possible!

Manufacturing is often thought of as a declining sector given the impacts of global outsourcing. In fact, many blue-collar workers are hurt more by a lack of skills than by globalization. Modern day manufacturing offers a smart career pathway for today’s job seekers. Over the next decade, as many as 3.4 million manufacturing jobs will become available, according to a recent article in Bloomberg Businessweek. Today’s manufacturing jobs require workers with computing, technical, basic-math, and problem-solving skills and require specialized post-high school training or certification. The Bloomberg article notes there is currently a “skills gap” that could result in 2 million of these jobs being unfilled.

The Capital region is ready to meet the challenge! Stay tuned as we visit other areas of our region to highlight our manufacturers and mobilize to meet their workforce needs.

October 11, 2017
This blog was co-authored by Tammy Cronin and Trish Kelly