Access to engineering, high-school-grad tech talent remain challenges
[caption id="attachment_36587" align="alignleft" width="302" caption="Joe Adam, Dick Herman"][/caption]
NORTH BAY -- With more than 300 manufacturers in Sonoma, Marin, Napa and Solano Counties, this industry is a vital part of the region’s economic health, according to Dick Herman, president of 101MFG, a private alliance of manufacturers throughout Northern California.
“Over the next three years we want the highway 101 innovation corridor to become California’s next great manufacturing center,” he said.
Virtually all of these firms are privately held, and most report that they are seeing gains representing 15 to 50 percent growth over the prior year.
The North Bay Business Journal has selected 13 companies for its first Top Manufacturers Awards honoring outstanding companies in the North Bay.
SRC Cables — Quality
BioMarin Pharmaceutical — Education
Raydiance — Innovation-Technology
Clear Focus Imaging — Innovation–Nontechnology
Architectural Plastics — Customer Service
Liberty Valley Doors — Community
Datum Technologies — Culture
DJ Grey Company — Supplier
Wright Engineered Plastics — Environment
Enphase Energy — Leadership
Labcon North America — Growth-Technology
Lagunitas Brewing Company — Growth-Food & Beverage
Special Award — La Tortilla Factory
Today, North Bay manufacturers account for 10 percent of all jobs in the area and generate 20 percent of local GDP. This represents almost $5 billion worth of manufacturing output in the four counties, not including wineries.
The North Bay manufacturing workforce includes 18,000 jobs, and averages $232,100 worth of output per employee -- and with wages and salaries higher than most other industries.
Growth in manufacturing also drives the expansion of non-manufacturing employment -- within some industries like semiconductor and computer equipment -- creating as many as three to seven more supporting jobs.
“North Bay firms are mainstream producers of millions of finished goods, as well as parts and components made here in the U.S., but we depend upon a highly-skilled, professional workforce,” Mr. Herman said.
In a study of high school sophomores in California, researchers found that of every 10 students, only two complete a four-year college degree program.
According to Mr. Herman, young people should consider all their options while still in high school. He said today a youth with a GED can earn $45,000 a year or more with technical or vocational training, several years of on-the-job training or with an appropriate technical apprenticeship.
“Despite these statistics, leaders continue to make educational policy based on the assumption that everyone will complete a four-year college curriculum. While a solid four-year engineering degree and relevant experience at a recognized national level are desirable, other options are open and potentially lucrative in this field for young people who are willing to learn a trade and have the requisite math, science and mechanical aptitude.”
The ability to hire local, qualified employees is a widespread concern. In a survey conducted across the nine Bay Area counties by 101MFG, nearly 60 percent said they plan to hire within the region if they could find candidates with skills they need.