Local manufacturers gather at Lake Superior College to address labor issues

Metal Saw
Metal Saw(KBJR)
Published: Mar. 30, 2022 at 5:13 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN -- Manufacturers from Northeast Minnesota took part in the State of Manufacturing Conference Wednesday at Lake Superior College.

Speakers and attendees addressed several issues with the labor force, including underemployment and recruiting challenges.

“I think today, we talked a lot of strategies about how can we come together to build up a program,” said Kelly Hertling, with L&M Radiator in Hibbing, MN.

Hertling believes the staffing challenges are due to several issues.

She said early retirement and a lack of childcare are two key problems that have caused the labor shortage.

“What was really energizing was when we share it as a group the stories come out about what manufacturers are trying to do to address this in a new and positive way,” said Bob Kill, President of Enterprise Minnesota, who helped organize the event.

Kill said he brought the manufacturers together because of their similar problems.

The manufacturing industry has many different businesses, but organizers believe their common experiences are a great way to find collaborative solutions.

“It’s a unique field with professions that aren’t able to work from home, so they need unique solutions. And that’s why everyone’s gathering today is to share their best practices with one another,” said Ian Vincent with Apex, an economic development group based in Duluth.

One solution that was heavily emphasized was education.

“We’re trying to give exploration to kids to youth, bringing after school programs, job shadowing, things like that, because we realize that if we don’t secure a future pipeline, we don’t get that interest locally,” said Hertling.

Vincent believes investing in manufacturing-rich programs can help the industry out of the rut it’s in right now while setting it up for future success

“It’s equally as important that they have a base of talent that they can rely on 10 years, 20 years, and 30 years down the line,” he said.

Many who attended the event say it helped connect them with other local businesses and resources they can use to help combat staffing and supply issues.

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