Western Nevada College President Chet Burton said Friday the state faces a good but large and looming problem regarding a need for skilled, modern manufacturing workers.
“It’s a good problem to have, but it’s a huge problem,” Burton told a group of mostly high-tech industrial executives and skilled workers’ training personnel. He was at a Manufacturing Day breakfast in Carson City urging everyone to cooperate tackling the problem: “We’ve got to work in lock step.”
Burton said collaboration is key, touting as an example school districts and community colleges, including his own WNC and Reno’s Truckee Meadows Community College, working together. Other speakers at the breakfast in the Governor’s Mansion Annex picked up on the collaboration theme, painted a picture of burgeoning industrial movement into the region, and said make or break time is at hand regarding fashioning the proper workforce.
Burton said a decade ago he was with IGT (International Game Technology) in Reno. He said the firm grew quickly from 40,000 machines in a given period to 130,000, something that was akin to the growth curve of all manufacturing and workforce needs now in the region. He and other speakers mentioned the Tesla-Panasonic decision to locate in the Reno area, but indicated that’s just the large tip of a growing iceberg.
“If we get our ducks in a row,” Burton said, it can “change the whole dynamic” here and across the state.
Ray Bacon, executive director of the Nevada Manufacturers Association, echoed Burton’s remarks on collaboration, traced the woeful history of Nevada on training skilled industrial workers until recently, and said modern training in STEM knowledge (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) must help workers reach the high level of all the other tools in industry’s tool belt.
Bacon traced various new training programs available that weren’t available when he was in manufacturing, among them a manufacturing technology one (MT1) program in Carson City. It’s going to turn out its first certified graduates soon, he said, adding the MT1 program is a collaboration involving WNC, the local school district and the Carson City Library.
George Gussak of Dream It Do It, the organization hosting the Manufacturing Day breakfast to kick off Nevada Manufacturing month in October, said “the pace is much faster” in manufacturing and in the need for skilled manufacturing workers. He’s leading an upgraded effort this month to expose students to manufacturing factory floors in a bid to interest them in the well-paid career options of modern industry.
Mike Kazmierski, president/CEO of Reno-based Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, said there are more than 800 manufacturing firms in the region, which includes 120 in Carson City, more are coming partly due to Tesla-Panasonic locating in the Reno area, and his EDAWN is succeeding in luring additional firms with hopes it puts 5,800 jobs in the pipeline. Manufacturing growth will create opportunities for good jobs, he said.
“Our kids need to understand that this is an opportunity that they need to seize,” he said.
Also among those appearing were Rob Hooper, director of the Carson City-based Northern Nevada Development Authority, and Carson City’s Assemblyman P.K. O’Neill. Hooper introduced O’Neill, who read a proclamation from Gov. Brian Sandoval designating October as manufacturing month in Nevada while noting the solid and growing industrial base here needs a skilled workforce.