AWB Manufacturing Week bus tour highlights health of industry and opportunities to improve, including workforce development

The Association of Washington Business has been on the road this week with a statewide bus tour celebrating Washington manufacturing. AWB president Kris Johnson described the inaugural tour in his column last month.

As Washington’s designated manufacturing association, the Association of Washington Business is pleased to report that there’s a lot to celebrate. However, the manufacturing sector also faces challenges, including tax and regulatory uncertainty, a growing workforce skills gap and an outdated perception of what manufacturing jobs look like…

Two goals of the trip:

· Show off the innovative made-in-Washington products and share how policies enacted in the Legislature can help or harm the manufacturing sector;

· Bridge the interest gap by educating the next generation of workers and their parents and teachers about the good-paying, hands-on careers offered in today’s high-tech manufacturing…

Workforce development and tax and regulatory policies will be among the issues in the spotlight.

They are attractive jobs that we – employers, schools, families and elected officials – must collectively work to promote, educating the next generation of workers in manufacturing know about these careers and then train them for the 740,000 Washington job openings expected over the next five years.

Finally, Manufacturing Week is an opportunity to outline the tax and regulatory struggles facing the sector. Washington employers pay approximately 58 percent of all state and local taxes, but are faced with constant talk at the state and local level of new and higher taxes and added agency red tape – uncertainty that can hold back investment in expansion and job creation.

The Chronicle reports on the two stops in Lewis County at Cardinal Glass and Braun Northwest.

One of the biggest challenges the industry faces is finding and retaining a workforce, [Cardinal Glass General Manager Stephen] Smith said. However, the turnover rate for employees is low and the company has about four new employees each month. Smith added one of the goals of the company is to keep employees and help them build a life… 

During the tour, Johnson said the AWB will be looking for ways to help boost manufacturing. One way would be to extend the business and operation tax break for the aerospace industry to all manufacturers in Washington to help them be competitive on the national and international level. 

Similar concerns surfaced in a report by  Our Valley, Our Future in Chelan and Douglas County. The Wenatchee World reported on the study.

Area employers are finding it hard to fill jobs due to poor work habits, lousy communication skills and limited job training by the local workforce, according to a recent survey.

The report lists several “notable results” of the survey.

  • 59 percent of respondents indicated some difficulty hiring qualified applicants in the last 12 months.
  • 30 percent of respondents indicated significant difficulty hiring qualified applicants in the last 12 months.
  • 81 percent indicated Moderate to High difficulty with poor communication skills (applicants or new hires).
  • 78 percent indicated Moderate to High difficulty with poor work habits (applicants or new hires).
  • 70 percent indicated Moderate to High difficulty with job-specific/occupational skills (applicants or new hires).
  • 66 percent have had difficulty finding qualified, experienced applicants.

Yesterday we wrote about international research identifying workforce trends and transformation with implications for skill training in the future. The concerns raised by AWB and Our Valley, Our Future are valid, urgent and confirmed by abundant research. 

In our 2017 foundation report update, we wrote,

Increasingly, the majority of jobs in Washington will be filled by workers with a postsecondary credential (such as a technical or industry certificate, apprenticeship, or degree). Today, just 31 percent of Washington high school students go on to attain such a credential by the age of 26. The mismatch between workforce readiness and job openings hampers our collective ability to take advantage of the potential economic growth that lies ahead.

Preparing more Washington kids for Washington jobs requires a cradle-to-career approach to raising student achievement. The Washington Roundtable has set an ambitious goal: By 2030, 70 percent of Washington high school students will go on to attain a postsecondary credential by age 26. Opportunity Washington supports such a vision, and the priorities outlined in our 2015 foundation report continue to be essential.

We commend AWB for its efforts to bring statewide attention to these critical issues.