NJ Manufacturers Discuss Affordability, Stigma and Cannabis
By Jim Pytell, Editor May 5, 2022
More than 400 New Jersey manufacturers gathered today for the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program’s (NJMEP) annual State of Manufacturing Summit to brief lawmakers on their biggest challenges, ranging from safety issues working with the legalization of adult cannabis, finding workers, staying in New Jersey despite its high costs and a growing plateau of incentives from other larger companies –friendly states.
The event in Trenton gave New Jersey lawmakers the opportunity to hear manufacturers first-hand and provide their own feedback, thoughts and potential solutions in town hall-style discussions.
One of the biggest concerns discussed was the inability of manufacturers to find skilled workers to fill vacancies, as evidenced by the more than 40,000 unfilled manufacturing jobs in the state.
“The problem is, we’re all looking for the same people — someone with five to 10 years of experience — and that person doesn’t exist,” said NJMEP CEO John Kennedy. “There is no pipeline.”
According to Paul Patterson, plant operations manager for Wall-based Safran Aerosystems Evacuation, strengthening the pipeline starts with removing the stigma surrounding trade schools versus universities and engaging and educating young children in various forms of making as well as raising awareness of opportunities. available.
“When people think about manufacturing, I always feel like people have a vision of early 1900-style factories,” Patterson continued. “We have to change this perception. Not all students are made for college, and at the same time, a college degree doesn’t always guarantee financial success.
Joshua Hopp, Chairman of Lodi-based HK Metalcraft, adds that guidance counselors play a role.
“We feel that New Jersey high schools and their guidance counselors are driven by the number of graduates attending four-year college. However, this is not the best route for many students. HK Metalcraft and other manufacturing companies have employment opportunities for skilled labor positions that require an education that is traditionally learned in trade schools and on the job. These positions are very well paid and offer excellent job security for the right associates,” he explained.
“We know that if we can elevate and grow the manufacturing industry, we can create jobs that provide the opportunity to live, work and raise a family in New Jersey,” added Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the leadership of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association. (NJBIA).
Another overriding issue is the cost of a place to do business in New Jersey. Added to this is the fact that other states have begun to offer companies a range of incentives – namely big cost savings – in an effort to “poach” companies that would otherwise locate or expand in New Jersey.
“I’m getting pummeled by North Carolina and Florida trying to get me to move there,” said Michael Seitel, CEO of Randolph-based Norwalt Design, whose business is looking to expand over the next two coming years. “It’s crazy what they offer. It’s mouth-watering, that’s all I can say.
Alexander Throl, co-founder and CEO of Boonton-based DiveDesign, added, “We have friends and colleagues moving from New Jersey to states like North Carolina, Florida, Texas, and others and are seeing much faster growth regardless of the fact that most of their customers are in the tri-state area.
The topic of occupational safety, when it comes to cannabis use, was also discussed, as many manufacturers were concerned about the consequences of employees potentially under the influence at work.
The challenge is that individuals can test positive for cannabis days or even weeks after use, even though they are not actually under the influence. It makes it difficult to self– police in the workplace and creates headaches for employers, especially manufacturers, who have increased safety concerns due to the use of heavy machinery and equipment.
“We continue to work with the Cannabis Regulatory Commission on workplace safety rules,” Siekerka said. “In the meantime, I encourage you to review your workplace policies and speak to your legal counsel, as this is no longer just about a drug test. It is objective evidence of what is happening with a person at a given time.
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