By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — The major need of local manufacturing companies companies is for more skilled labor according to Rich Bardellini, executive vice president of New Hampshire Ball Bearings, who was one of the featured speakers Wednesday morning at a breakfast meeting at the Belknap Mill which kicked off a week-long celebration of manufacturing in the Granite State.
Bardellini, whose company employs 475 people at its Astro Division plant in the O’Shea Industrial Park, where its new product development center is located, said that advanced manufacturing requires the development of a skilled workforce which will provide a “deep bench” for manufacturing companies like his.
“Our biggest challenge is finding skilled labor, in some cases just labor, as we are willing to train people,” said Bardellini, who said that it is difficult when as many as 15 percent of job applicants can’t pass drug screening tests.
He said that New Hampshire Ball Bearings plays an active role in the community and works closely with the Huot Center at Laconia High School and the advanced manufacturing program at Lakes Region Community College.
He called for more efforts to market manufacturing jobs to young people as future career paths and working to overcome the impression that many of them have that manufacturing jobs are dirty and unrewarding.
“We’ve got to do a better job in our schools. We’re hosting tours for kids this week to show them that it’s a clean workplace and that there are opportunities for good pay and a long career. There are other jobs than just sitting in front of a computer all day and in which you actually make things using your hands and your brain,” said Bardellini.
Also speaking at the event was state Sen. Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia), who said he saw in his own family that manufacturing jobs helped create the American middle class and that is important to reach today’s young students the message that manufacturing jobs offer them a chance to work in a profession which pays above average wages and opportunities for advancement.
Hosmer said he can see from working in the AutoServ dealership the importance of having well trained auto technicians. “We couldn’t do our job without them.”
He said local manufacturers tell him their most common challenge is finding skilled workers, that it’s essential “to change the image of manufacturing” in order to get more young people interested.
Hosmer said he hopes that after the election is over this fall and what he called “the toxic political environment” is over that state lawmakers can concentrate on sound public policy which will meet the challenges New Hampshire faces.
The program was presented by the Belknap Economic Development Council and the Belknap Mill Society and was sponsored by Titeflex Aerospace.
Allison Ambrose, president of the Belknap Mill Society, said that the Belknap Mill was a fitting place to hold the celebration. She said that the mill, built in 1823, is the oldest unaltered brick textile mill in the United States and stands as a reminder of the Lakes Region’s industrial heritage.
State Sen. Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia) speaks about the need for a skilled workforce at a New Hampshire Manufacturing Week event held at the Belknap Mill. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
Rich Bardellini, executive vice president of New Hampshire Ball Bearings, speaks about the need for a skilled workforce at a New Hampshire Manufacturing Week event held at the Belknap Mill. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
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