By Cara Tracy, NH MEP | May 17, 2022 | Updated May 26, 2022
Rochester, NH – On two occasions this month, May 16 and May 25, Rochester’s Mayor, Paul Callaghan, welcomed and facilitated discussion among Rochester region manufacturers. The event, sponsored by New Hampshire Manufacturing Partnership (NH MEP), the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, and the City of Rochester, offered an open platform for discussion of growing workforce issues. Over the course of the two sessions, approximately 30 local manufacturers gathered to share their workforce challenges of recruiting and retaining employees. Following the discussion, a panel of state officials presented options for solutions and strategies.
Andy Labranche, president and CEO of Spaulding Composites, a global supplier of specialty composite materials, and Thermoset composites and laminates, shared that he needs “skilled operators at all levels, we need people to just show up.” Labranche described other challenges, “we are a smaller company than Sig Sauer, who can offer higher wages, how do we compete with that?” Several others agreed this is a very real challenge for Rochester’s small to mid-size manufacturer’s. Trying to attract, hire and retain workers, while competing with Sig Sauer, one of the region’s largest manufacturers, is very difficult.
Wink Faulkner from Jaeger USA, Inc., a developer and manufacturer of premium shower sealing systems and their components, said he would like to see the larger manufacturers take notice of the hiring challenges the smaller companies are dealing with. “Rochester is a cool place and there is growth potential for all businesses in Rochester”, he said.
Labranche added the R.W. Creteau Regional Technology Center (associated with Spaulding High School), “is doing everything right, with the right curriculum, with classes in machinery and CAD, we need to encourage the trades. Students should know what potential there is in manufacturing.” A representative from the Creteau Tech Center shared, “show and tell works for our students, if manufacturers can show products they create, students are fascinated.”
Heather Ramos of Foss Performance Materials said, “I would have 16 interviews on the roster and only 6 or 8 people will actually show up. Why?” Ramos added, “the cost of living is too high and Sig Sauer pays too much.”
Pete Hanson of TurboCam International in Barrington said, “math skills out of high school can be very weak so we provide voluntary math skills training on-site.” One of the state panel members stated this could potentially qualify for partial reimbursement through the NH Job Training Fund Grant.
Following the manufacturer’s comments, Zenagui Brahim, president of NH MEP, described that NH MEP fosters exposure and education by way of student tours between local schools and manufacturing companies. After students tour any given facility, interest is sparked, they can see career potential. Brahim added, “after student tours, as many as 62-65% of the students say they may now consider a career in manufacturing”. Brahim stated, Evania Verley, of NH MEP is the Partnership Advisor companies should connect with to arrange student tours.
Brahim initiated phase two of the sessions and introduced a panel of state officials from NH Employment Security, NH Health & Human Services, and NH Office of Workforce Opportunity within the Department of Business and Economic Affairs (BEA). These state offices provide a vast array of services from finding employment, training, and career counseling, to support services to lessen barriers to employment such as childcare assistance, mileage reimbursement, auto repairs and other emergency services. Services and support are also available to companies seeking workforce hiring assistance.
Katrina Murray of NH Health & Human Services spoke about programs such as, Community Action and TANF. Both programs help families move from poverty to a place of self-sufficiency. In Workforce Development programs, as many as 20 people are placed into jobs each month with many more in training programs. “Exposure”, Murray said is her key word, “expose participants to all the assistance that is available and to help them get out of a rut.”
“Childcare and transportation issues are the two main reasons people don’t show up for work”, Murray said. Gene Patnode, also of NH Health & Human Services, added “we are well aware of the childcare shortage and millions of dollars are being dumped into childcare, we are on the brink of finalizing new services.”
Patnode continued, Workforce Sessions offer an opportunity for employers to share their hiring needs with our career counselors at the centers and program participants directly. He added, “we’re educating program participants where the high paying and high demand jobs are, the real money is to be made in manufacturing.”
Richard Lavers and Sarah Morrissey, both of NH Employment Security, spoke of the 12 NH Works Offices across the state. “Our main mission is to provide free employment services and career exploration for job seekers.” Lavers added, we offer 3 main pipelines to connect job seekers with employers; “Virtual Job Fairs, Virtual Job Match System for companies to perform a targeted search and finally a Job Search Portal where open jobs can be posted.”
Support programs exist for NH businesses as well, such as WorkInvestNH, “a fund that allows businesses an opportunity to upgrade their worker’s skills with a 1:1 cash match grant.” The application process is “easy and fast for the employers”, Lavers added.
A Director from the NH Department of Business and Economic Affairs (NH BEA), Joe Doiron, shared, his programs offer youth services that provide funding, training, scholarships and other support to “help young participants find and retain gainful employment.” He added, other programs include, Dislocated Worker, and various skills training programs to up-skill workers, “we want people to stay here, working in New Hampshire.” The BEA’s focus is, “recruiting and retaining a high-quality workforce.” BEA representatives encourage meeting with companies directly to learn about specific workforce needs.
At the second Pipeline Session on May 25, an additional contributor joined the panel of state officials.
John Roth, Director of UNH’s John Olson Advanced Manufacturing Center (The Olson Center) in Durham. Focused on “advanced manufacturing technologies and a cross-curricular approach to engineering and manufacturing concepts, The Olson Center is designed to help bridge the skills gap in the nation’s $1.7 trillion manufacturing industry, and serve as a home for academically derived technology incubators…”
Roth said, the bottom line is, “to help NH companies stay competitive.” The Center “will serve as a pipeline for trained, skilled workers who will be able to successfully step into the state’s manufacturing sector with practical knowledge and experience.”
In closing, Mayor Callaghan described the improvements and upgrades that have taken place in downtown Rochester, and by “bringing in businesses, its helping to displace crime” he said.
Mayor Callaghan shared promising solutions to Rochester’s housing crisis following the announcement of “Governor Chris Sununu’s $100 million housing plan to address the shortage of affordable housing for NH’s workforce.”
Mayor Callaghan thanked the panel of state officials and manufacturer’s for attending, he encouraged on-going discussion among the groups to find solutions.
NH Works Resource Referral Guidebook 2022, V.1-3
Tel (603) 271-7275 or www.nhworks.org
NH Employers Program (NHEP)
NH Employment Services
Tel (603) 271-7700 or www.NHES.nh.gov
Arrange Student Tours at your Manufacturing Business:
New Hampshire Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NH MEP)
Evania Verley, Partnership Advisor
Tours of The Olson Center at UNH, Durham are open to perspective students and the public: