Bolstering N.H.’s workforce
Filling the skills gap with CTE programs
AMHERST – “My parents thought, ‘You’re going, you don’t have a choice, you’re going to college because if you don’t, you’re going to end up pumping gas.’ That’s the perception – that’s the mentality, and I listened to them.”
Speaking at his Amherst facility Friday morning, Williams & Hussey Machine Co. Inc. President and CEO Stephen Carter said many high school students across New Hampshire and throughout the nation fail to realize there are plenty of good jobs available for those with the right training … which quite often is not a bachelor’s degree.
“That’s a perception we have to work on,” Carter said. “That perception is going to be a long process. It’s going to be very hard.”
Carter, who is also president of the Wood Machinery Manufacturers of America, is far from alone in facing a skills gap when trying to hire and retain workers. On Friday, U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., joined Carter at his facility to discuss bipartisan efforts underway in Congress to strengthen and expand career and technical education (CTE) programs.
“What we know is that businesses need a skilled workforce,” Hassan said. “We also know that we have people graduating high school who feel that they aren’t prepared for the kind of jobs that you see here today in this manufacturing business, and you see all across the state of New Hampshire.”
She highlighted the recent bipartisan Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. This bill will help better prepare students for jobs in the 21st century by requiring CTE programs to collaborate with local industry and workforce development organizations to better meet the needs of businesses.
Hassan also said legislation that just passed out of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee incentivizes states to work closely with businesses to make sure that career and technical education centers have the kind of curriculum needed to prepare young people for jobs in manufacturing and small business. It will also make sure underserved student populations are supported as they go through career and technical training.
“Again, trying to make sure everybody has the opportunity to learn these kinds of skills, and also knowing that if we help underserved populations, maybe people with learning disabilities for instance, learn these skills that, that unleashes their talent and energy, and adds to the workforce in critical ways so that the economy can continue to grow,” she said.
Carter said it is not just his industry facing a skills gap. It comes down to getting people who have the perception that they need to go to college or they won’t turn out to be anything to think differently. He said guidance counselors in high schools need to do a better job of evaluating career options for individual students.
“They should be making them aware that there are other options out there that are career options,” Carter said. “There are a lot of technical jobs out there that are career jobs, and I’m not talking $8 or $9 an hour, they’re out there.”
As it is, for more than 60 years Williams & Hussey Machine has manufactured molders and profile knives for the woodworking professional, having been in Milford, Wilton, back to Milford and now at their Amherst location, operating since 1954.
“Ensuring that innovative businesses like Williams & Hussey Machine have the strong workforce they need to succeed is critical to our economy and our state,” Hassan said later on Friday. “Strengthening career and technical education programs is critical to those efforts, helping students develop the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century economy while meeting the needs of our businesses. I will continue working across party lines to strengthen career and technical education programs in New Hampshire and across the country to help our people, businesses and state thrive.”
Adam Urquhart can be reached at 594-1206 or firstname.lastname@example.org.