They say it takes a village to raise a child. PMMI members in Milwaukee and Minneapolis would put it another way: “It takes an industry to raise a workforce.” PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies (www.PMMI.org), has launched JumPPstart, an initiative that calls on members to come together to tackle what many see as a shrinking pool of qualified workers.
PMMI’s Education & Workforce Development Committee Chairman Timm Johnson, vice president, Sales & Marketing, Spee-Dee Packaging Machinery, believes perception is a critical underlying issue.
“Kids have no idea how the Cheerios get in the box, so our starting point is exposure and education. There’s a popular perception of factory work as dirty, hot and boring, but the reality is machinery manufacturers’ plants are clean and air conditioned, with new machines and challenges every day,” Johnson says.
While the perceptions and overall availability of workers is of national concern, each JumPPstart group is a local effort, notes Maria Ferrante, vice president, Education & Workforce Development, PMMI.
“Participants realize the overall benefit their collaboration will have — to schools, students, the industry and even the economy, and they’re willing to work together to achieve it,” Ferrante says. “But they’re also local employers, hiring from a pool of local workers. JumPPstart efforts will foster the relationships that help build a pipeline for candidates.”
She adds that while PMMI is helping to organize groups, each group will rely on volunteers to accomplish its goals.
“Every locality is unique, and only local employers can truly understand what will work in their area. For JumPPstart to work, the feet on the ground need to be local,” she says.
The first two meetings took place outside Minneapolis and Milwaukee. Richard Bahr, president & CEO, MGS Machine Corporation, who hosted the Minneapolis-area meeting, says the need is urgent.
“Our industry needs good, skilled staff to meet our growth needs. Much of the training and infrastructure for education of people is in place, but educators struggle to create interest in their programs for new students. This has been a long-term problem that is getting worse — parents and educators steering children away from manufacturing careers,” says Bahr. “It’s a long-term strategy, but we must begin sometime. Like now. The trend is not in our favor to attract new people to manufacturing careers, so we must be intentional and push against this.”