A cross-section of manufacturing industry leaders from Northeast Nebraska recently came together to identify opportunities and actions needed to promote the growth of the sector. 17 individuals, representing over a dozen companies, provided input. Industry leaders were joined by community partners from workforce development, education, and education development attended as observers. This unique partnership is modeled after similar partnerships across the country that are achieving real results for businesses and regional economies.
Business participants first discussed the potential for the manufacturing industry in Northeast Nebraska, identifying drivers of growth. They identified the following as opportunities: Growing Markets; New products, Services, and Technologies; Policy Impacts; and Local Advantages.
The group was convened by the Columbus Area Chamber, Norfolk Area Chamber and NPPD.
Business participants then identified the most important requirements to capitalize on these opportunities. Their priorities were grouped into three major areas for action, and business participants volunteered to be “champions,” to identify both outcomes and actions to move the priority forward. Those requirements identified were:
Grow Entry-Level and Skilled-Trade Talent Pipelines
This priority focuses on improving the quality of the local talent pool for manufacturing in two ways:
- Increasing the flow of qualified, motivated, and skilled entry-level candidates, individuals who may not have technical skills, but who have the basic skills and attitudes to succeed in manufacturing companies (e.g., drug free, good work ethic, ability to learn, English language skills, ability to work as part of a team, problem-solving skills). Goal is to keep local youth and adults from leaving the region, enter manufacturing, and move up in careers.
- Build the talent pipeline for the skilled trades, focusing specifically on welders/fabricators, machinists, and maintenance technicians. Work with local institutions to increase the volume of graduates who possess the basic and technical skills to perform effectively in today’s manufacturing workplace. Build on existing community college programs, career academies, and other efforts.
Change Image/Marketing to Promote Pride in Manufacturing Careers
This priority is focused on improving the image and promoting the benefits of manufacturing careers in Northeast Nebraska. This would include:
Marketing internally to shift negative mindsets and promote the positive benefits of local manufacturing careers among both youth (and their parents and educators), as well as potential career-changing adults. Expand the number of students exposed to manufacturing workplaces through tours and other means. Create an industry-wide marketing effort that could include testimonials, advertisements, school visits, and the like.
- Marketing externally to attract outside manufacturing professionals, including engineering and management talent.
Improve Infrastructure (supplier, surface and air, and building infrastructure)
This priority is focused on improving three kinds of infrastructure in Northeast Nebraska:
- Supplier infrastructure, especially increasing the availability of freight carriers and the around-the-clock availability of repair services.
- Surface and air infrastructure, especially four-lane highway access to the rest of the country and better air service.
- Building infrastructure, especially reducing red tape for industrial building additions and increasing available rental and individually-owned housing for employees.
This partnership is all about action and in order to be successful it must be driven by industry champions. Later this fall, champions will participate in conference calls to further develop desired outcomes (i.e., what does success look like in measurable ways) and actions (i.e., what needs to happen to achieve these outcomes, starting with “early wins”). These draft outcomes and actions will be discussed and refined at the next in-person sector partnership meeting.