Click Bond leader stumping for STEM
February 21, 2014
Manufacturing jobs go unfilled for lack of skilled workers, the president of Click Bond said Tuesday, but she added that training collaboration can fill the gap.
Collie Hutter, co-founder of the aerospace fastening device firm that employs 310 in Carson City, told Rotarians in a luncheon speech that there are 600,000 manufacturing jobs nationwide that go begging due to untrained people "because they don't have the skills," and a public-image problem gets in the way.
"We have to educate an entire generation," she said, both to combat a lingering image that industrial jobs are dirty and to encourage younger people in the STEM fields. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. She said today's factory floor is clean, and precision standards apply.
"Everything has a computer hanging on it," said Hutter, who co-founded the firm that moved here and became Click Bond Inc. The company employs 400, most of them in Carson City and the rest at two plants outside Nevada. She co-founded it with her husband, Charles, who serves as chairman and chief executive officer. Their son, Karl, is chief operating officer.
Hutter said American manufacturing and innovation still lead the world, despite recessions in 1982 and 2008-09 that took a significant toll. She said on-shoring and other factors mean manufacturing is being rejuvenated both in Northern Nevada and nationwide.
"I'm happy to say," she told her audience, "that it's coming back."
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American-certified industrial output "is still the world's gold standard," Hutter said. She said nationwide manufacturing in better days employed 18 million nationwide, and even though that has dropped to 12-13 million today, plants are putting out 50 percent more product. She said that might not help the jobless rate, but it shows "we can effectively compete in the world market."
Locally, she praised collaborators that include manufacturers, government officials and educators at Carson City's school district and at community colleges, such as Western Nevada and Truckee Meadows colleges, for forging ties and communications that help turn out the next generation for manufacturing work.
She said nationwide, the average age on factory floors is 57, which means skilled replacement workers are needed everywhere as retirement approaches for many now on the job. She acknowledged pay at some smaller manufacturers fell behind during the recent recession, so there may be "a little catching up to do," but after initial training and proof of good skills there are good long-term jobs for employees with a good work ethic.
Click Bond, she said, has 102 U.S. and international patents and remains on the cutting edge of adhesive fastener technology. It is such innovation that keeps American industry competitive, Hutter said.
"All of the products we make were designed right here in Carson City," she said.