One-fourth of first student group accepted paid summer internships.
NORTH BAY – While many of the North Bay’s manufacturing companies have seen success in recent years, Dick Herman, president of the manufacturer advocate 101MFG, said that there is a crisis looming for companies of all scales as the years march on.
One-third of the talent in the field, he said, is approaching retirement. As those professionals disappear, with them goes the expertise that has helped sustain what Mr. Herman estimates to be 300 to 400 manufacturing companies, and many more well-paying jobs, in the North Bay.
In an effort to address that shortage, 101MFGs “100 in 100” career pathways program seeks to present high school students with a hands-on introduction to manufacturing. With varied partners like Agilent Technologies, Enphase Energy and Architectural Plastics, Mr. Herman said he hoped the program would invigorate interest in the field and introduce youth to the variety of roles available in the industry.
“Young people are the future of our work force,” Mr. Herman said. “Kids – they need to see this stuff, they need to touch it … they need to know it exists.”
The effort has already started to pay off: after its inaugural run completed in the spring, Mr. Herman said that more than one-fourth of the 40 high school juniors and seniors were offered paid summer internships at area manufacturers. With a second cohort of 100 expected to begin in October and more manufacturers offering to join, Mr. Herman said that he hoped to see that number grow.
The program, offered to junior and senior high school students, will be open to all Sonoma County high schools during its second run. An application is required, and Mr. Herman said that the first group was split evenly between college-bound students and those who were not planning to pursue higher education.
There are three phases in the program: During the first phase, small groups are introduced to various manufacturers in the area, learning the particulars of that industry. A second phase involves a five-day, project-focused internship, with a “phase 3” goal of placing those students in continuing internships. At full implementation, the program is expected to host 100 students per session and last 100 days.
Mr. Herman said that many of the smaller manufacturing companies are too busy to develop their own internship pathways. The 100 in 100 program could help introduce those companies to a potential talent pool, with a goal of inspiring enthusiasm for mentoring the next generation of employees.
“It turns out that, in manufacturing, there are tons of career options for people,” Mr. Herman said, including related fields like marketing and design. He added, “If you didn’t have these smaller, specialty companies, bigger companies like Enphase and Agilent couldn’t be here.”
More than 100 manufacturers have joined 101MFG, a private group that began as Santa Rosa Manufacturing in 2009. Mr. Herman created the group to help support the mutual interests of the region’s manufacturers, and expects that membership will double by the end of this year.
“We want to get a reputation as the place for manufacturers to come and set up their business,” he said.
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