The cost of doing nothing — Can your business afford a skills gap?

black and white photo of first graduating class of Cannons of Fredon program in 1992
The Cannons of Fredon 1992 first graduating class

(Courtesy of Guest Bloggers Alyson Scott, president, and Roger Sustar, CEO, Fredon Corporation)

Oftentimes, when describing the youth manufacturing programs we at Fredon and the Alliance for Working Together (AWT) Foundation are involved with, we are faced with the same question: “How much is this going to cost?”

Well, fellow manufacturers, if you are asking that question, you have completely missed the purpose of being involved in promoting manufacturing to our young people. The question you should be asking is, “How much is it going to cost me if I don’t get involved?” It will cost you the successful integration of the next generation of machinists, engineers, welders, inspectors, etc. You will be faced with the harsh reality that is the dreaded “skills gap.”

Do we have a litany of statistics and reports to support this allegation? No. Do we have signs lining the street that say, “Machinists Wanted?” No. Fredon Corporation has never been at risk of a skills gap. Why? Because more than 20 years ago we saw the value of offering youth manufacturing programs in our facility. We have put countless hours of our time – our top machinists’ time – and too many dollars to worry about into promoting careers in manufacturing. From the birth of our Cannons of Fredon program in 1992 to creating, organizing, facilitating and promoting our AWT RoboBots program (since 2010), we have talked the talk and walked the walk.

We recognize that not every young person we work with will become a machinist (or other manufacturing-centric career seeker) and that’s okay with us! What many business owners don’t consider is this: The future growth of our industry is inarguably dependent on having a highly skilled workforce. Inarguably. But aren’t we also dependent on a well-educated consumer who knows the value behind the phrase “Made in America?”

Every dollar and every hour that is offered up to support the education and cultivation of our future employees is priceless. Do we see the return on our investment on our balance sheet? No. Do we see it in our bottom line? Absolutely!

The reward for our efforts is an amazing group of 100 employees – skilled machinists who produce precision machined products for our customers in the aerospace, defense, locomotive, nuclear energy and transportation industries. We are generationally diverse; we are made up of an equal amount of “Millennials” and “Baby Boomers.” More than 38 percent of our employees are ages 40 and under. Skills gap? Not at Fredon.

261 students in AWT RoboBots competition
261 students competed in the 2015 AWT RoboBots competition.


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