REGIONAL—In less than a year, the Northwest Iowa Regional Manufacturing Partnership has grown from 11 members to 25.
The basis for the partnership is to promote manufacturing careers in the region and to entice future members of the workforce to consider employment within the skilled services sector.
Leading the charge for the group is Kristi Heisinger, a former employee of Sheldon-based manufacturer Rosenboom who has more than 20 years of experience in the industry.
Heisinger serves as facilitator and career coach for the partnership, which is based out of Northwest Iowa Community College in Sheldon and serves businesses in Cherokee, Lyon, O’Brien, Osceola and Sioux counties.
Since October is National Manufacturing Month, Heisinger thought it was a good time to highlight some of her organization’s achievements and note upcoming activities that coincide with the celebratory period on the calendar.
“We’ve gone from starting with 11 companies and we added 14 more this year; that’s more than I ever thought we’d get on our second round of recruiting, so I’m very, very happy with that,” she said.
Some of the founding members that were part of the partnership’s launch last November include Diamond Vogel of Orange City, Demco of Boyden and Link Manufacturing of Sioux Center.
A few businesses that the partnership added include Coilcraft of Hawarden, TC Transcontinental of Sibley and R.J. Manufacturing Co. of Cherokee, the first and only member from Cherokee County.
“All the companies are kind of the same boat, they are having a hard time finding enough employees to meet their current customer demands and then, quite a few of them want to expand,” Heisinger said.
Besides hopes of attracting outsiders looking for well-paying work in the manufacturing sector — Iowa’s average manufacturing job paid $56,080 annually in 2016 — youth recruitment is a crucial element of Heisinger’s job.
Working alongside NCC learning intermediary network coordinator Allie Mouw, Heisinger is making arrangements for 15 schools to visit 23 partnership businesses during the last two weeks of October.
The duo also will meet with students ahead of time in their classrooms to discuss the tours.
“The idea is to get schools to tour three to four companies during the day,” Heisinger said. “And then hopefully each company gets two to three groups of students to come through.”
With the addition of Cherokee, the partnership works with 18 area high schools and Heisinger sees the values in exposing students to local manufacturers.
“With the tours, we just kind of want to give them a general look inside a manufacturing facility because for many of them, they’ve never been inside one and they’ve found people’s eyes really get open once they get inside and get a chance to look around,” Heisinger.
“Hopefully, while they are touring, something will spark in them that they want to go check something out in more detail and we are going to be talking to them about following up the tour with a job shadow.”
If students are interested in a particular business, Heisinger and Mouw would make arrangements with all of the necessary parties for the job shadow.
Seeing facilities firsthand often clears up a lot of manufacturing misnomers is something Heisinger noted.
“Part of our manufacturing sector partnership is just to expose people to what it is and the best way to do that is to open the doors up, invite them and show them around,” she said.
The last facet of the partnership’s Manufacturing Month outreach is participation in the Junior Career Day on Monday, Oct. 14, at NCC. A new element of career day promoted by group is the Manufacturing Expo.
During the expo, 10 partner companies will provide hands-on exhibits and students also will be able to arrange visits to the businesses.
“That’s geared more toward students that don’t have a desire to go to college, so it’ll parallel the college fair and it is being offered as an alternative for those students,” Heisinger said.