Colleges, community unite to inspire next generation of manufacturers

Mike Schultz from BioDapt Inc., professional athlete and the 2013 Popular Science Magazine’s Invention of the Year Award winner, shows his award-winning Versa Foot product. Schultz will appear at the free community Minnesota Manufacturing Week event Oct. 22 at Anoka-Ramsey Community College.

Mike Schultz from BioDapt Inc., professional athlete and the 2013 Popular Science Magazine’s Invention of the Year Award winner, shows his award-winning Versa Foot product. Schultz will appear at the free community Minnesota Manufacturing Week event Oct. 22 at Anoka-Ramsey Community College.

To kick-off Minnesota Manufacturing Week (Oct. 20-26), Anoka-Ramsey Community College, Anoka Technical College, the Anoka Chamber of Commerce and the City of Coon Rapids will host a free community event Oct. 22 to celebrate the importance of manufacturing.

The event, at the Anoka-Ramsey Coon Rapids Campus, will feature the movie premiere of “Metal and Flesh” from 6-7 p.m., a question and answer session with “Monster” Mike Schultz from 7-7:30 p.m. and a manufacturing expo from 7:30-9 p.m.

The purpose of the event is to connect students, parents and community members with manufacturers.

“This is a great opportunity for the community to appreciate what our local manufacturers are doing and see that manufacturing is a great career path,” said Jon Olson from Anoka-Ramsey/Anoka Technical College’s Professional and Workforce Training division.

“Manufacturing is an important part of the economic base in Coon Rapids and Anoka County,” said Matthew Brown, a Community Development Specialist with the City of Coon Rapids. “Since we emerged from the recession a few years ago, we’ve seen significant growth in manufacturing jobs. In order to ensure a strong manufacturing base in the future, we need to make sure our future workforce is prepared and aware of the rewarding careers that the field offers.”

Lack of awareness of manufacturing jobs and a shortage of people with necessary skills have combined to produce a negative perception of manufacturing employment opportunities in Minnesota.

“We don’t have a job creation problem; we have a manufacturing talent shortage” said John LeTourneau of the Anoka Area Chamber of Commerce. “I hear about talent issues all the time at our chamber meetings. This event is a perfect way for manufacturers to be a part of the solution in the career-awareness area.”

Challenges to growth in the manufacturing sector include both finding skilled workers to fill jobs and the industry’s image. Finding trained workers is increasingly difficult as baby boomers retire and leave job openings to a generation that hasn’t looked at manufacturing as a viable career path.

The 2011 Minnesota Skills Gap Survey, administered by Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), almost half of respondents reported positions unfilled due to a lack of qualified applicants, and indicated moderate or serious worker shortages.

“We know manufacturing has an image problem,” said Matthew Salo who manages the Medical Device Manufacturing Program at Anoka-Ramsey Community College. “We see Minnesota Manufacturing Week as an opportunity to engage and educate our community that advanced manufacturing isn’t their grandparents’ factory job. Walk into a modern manufacturer’s building and you’ll see bright and clean facilities, robotics, lasers, computers and high precision machines producing high tolerance parts. Everything around us was created through manufacturing, from a simple light switch cover to a medical device that keeps a heart beating.”

 

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