As concerns grow over the apparent skilled worker shortage across America as well as other parts of the world, some traditional colleges are reacting to the situation with outside of the box thinking that could have great results for those in the steel industry, which includes metal supply in Houston.
Based in Minneapolis, MN, the Dunwoody College of Technology has opened one of its first satellite campuses in Winsted, Minnesota. This is the first outstate campus of Dunwoody Technical College. This new site has been opened specifically to address the skilled worker shortage in the west central area of Minnesota.
This need became apparent when regional manufacturers were facing severe skilled workforce shortages. This shortage was so severe that many companies were considering leaving the area in coming years. According to CEO of Millerbernd Manufacturing, “I think part of it is a lot of people don’t understand what kind of careers are available in manufacturing, welding can be a career in itself but it can also lead to a number of other things.” This can have a large reaching effect, because if steel manufacturing slows down then steel supply and metal supply in Houston can also slow down.
The Winstead steel fabrication company has about 350 employees currently, but Mr. Millerbernd said it was not enough. There were approximately fourteen other companies in the area with the same problem. Eventually the companies found themselves vying for one another’s employees which does not contribute to a good community spirit.
There were at any given time forty to fifty job openings for welders, but there were no skilled welders to be found. Skilled workers such as welders and other steel laborers like those found in the metal supply in Houston, have been harder and harder to come by since the recession. Millerbernd himself, reached out to the Dunwoody College of Technology to ask staff to research this need and what could be done about it to produce more young people that could supply the need for workers familiar with working with steel, iron or steel channel work.
The research showed that in that particular region 34% of the graduating seniors did not attend college. Many of these kids were remaining on family farms or turning to low paying jobs out of high school.
The fact is not everyone can or has the desire to go to a four year or even a two year college program but would rather seek out vocational employment. So the Dunwoody team hit local high schools within a thirty mile radius and collected students interested in the new “Manufacturing Opportunities for Vocational Employment or “MOVE.”
In October of 2014, the first class of 24 students began the welding program which was designed as a four month, fast track training course so that they could quickly be moved into awaiting jobs. The students involved in the program are excited to be given alternative opportunities for employment in their region.