NH Business Leaders Concerned with Lack of Skilled Workforce

CEOs Seek Better Partnership with Area Colleges

Bedford, NH – Even in this tough economy, high skill jobs are hard to fill in New Hampshire. In a series of meetings focused on training and retaining the state’s workforce, local business leaders urged New Hampshire’s business, education and policy leaders to redouble efforts to help better prepare for the changing needs of industry.

Organizers of the New Hampshire Forum on the Future hosted a Forum Breakfast Briefing to examine what to do to boost the number of skilled workers in the state. One goal is to build new partnerships with public and private colleges and universities to better prepare New Hampshire’s workforce of tomorrow.

A collective worry expressed by business executives is the vacancy rate for literally thousands of high skilled jobs employers in the Granite State cannot fill in manufacturing and technology. “Partnerships grow out of necessity and how companies grow with their employees is really important,” explained Deane Ilukowicz, Vice President of Human Resources with Hypertherm in Laconia. At Hypertherm, a Technical Training Institute is operated by the company to train employees in an intensive, nine- week program in
partnership with River Valley College. “These kinds of partnerships demonstrate the increasing need for businesses and higher education institutions to work closely together to meet collective needs.”

Employers are looking for candidates who have practical skill sets and colleges are looking for resources to expand and improve their curriculum. By working together businesses and employers can meet their shared objectives. It is estimated there are over 500,000 manufacturing positions available nationwide, which employers cannot fill.

“Businesses want to be competitive for a long time and businesses rely on schools to provide their talent” said Gary Groleau, Senior Divisional Manager, New Hampshire Ball Bearings. “The infrastructure that we relied on to provide talent no longer exists and we must build a new system from scratch. Partnering with schools and colleges can help fill that gap.”

Manufacturing is the fastest growing industry in the United States and the recruiting structure that had kept the industry on solid footing no longer exists. Recruiters have turned to partnerships with colleges and universities to develop a competitive job force.

Internships are a major component of these new partnerships. It allows the students to gain practical experience and provides the companies to develop new talent. “We want to take what schools have given students in terms of knowledge and put students to work” said Peter Antoinette, President and CEO of Nanocomp Technologies. “Small companies like Nanocomp do not have the resources to create their own training program, so partnering with local institutions is the best way to create the talent they need.”

Colleen Karpinsky, Vice President of Legal & Human Resources at DYN said, “Schools are the breaking ground for innovation and businesses want to be a part of that.”

Fr. Jonathan DeFelice, President of Saint Anselm College, was pleased to hear the business representatives address the need for not only technical skills, but acknowledge they are also seeking employees who have the personal talents needed for success. “Students need to know more than just how to perform a technical skill. They also need to be able to think critically, to be responsible citizens and to be able to adapt to new
challenges in a fast paced economy.” The education that college students receive at liberal arts institutions provides the broad based knowledge which can be brought into the workplace.

Tom Horgan, President of the New Hampshire College & University Council added, “New Hampshire’s colleges and universities are working hard to encourage high school students to take a more rigorous academic program so they will be better prepared to enter college, or the workforce, with the skills they need.” The Council is the sponsor of a statewide program, NH Scholars, which partners with businesses, high schools and students delivering a strong message about reaching beyond only basic graduation requirements. “We know students will succeed if they are prepared,” Horgan said.

The Forum on the Future is a collaborative initiative of the New Hampshire College & University Council and the New Hampshire High Technology Council. Additional Forum Breakfast Briefings are planned.

For information about the New Hampshire Forum on the Future visit www.nhfuture.org.