New Jersey manufacturers are struggling to find enough skilled employees even though the industry pays an average salary of $90,000 annually in the Garden State.
New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program Chief Executive Officer John Kennedy moderated the discussion. He dispelled the myth that manufacturing is dying in New Jersey.
“There are 11,300 companies in New Jersey that employ close to 400,000 people [in manufacturing],” Kennedy said. “Our panelists are our professional support to our industry.”
Panelist Robert Grote is a certified public accountant at Grassi & Co. and works in the manufacturing and distribution sector. On the subject of succession planning, Grote advises his clients to think for a long time before making decisions.
“The families’ biggest asset is the business itself,” Grote said. “You cannot decide to retire tomorrow and leave within six months. You need to plan for this. We try to have open dialogue with our customers on a regular basis. Families sell their companies when the younger generations do not want to inherit it.”
Eric Probst, a lawyer at Porzio, Bromberg & Newman PC, represents manufacturers when they are sued on an allegation of a breach of contract or when a customer has been injured allegedly by a product.
“I get emails every day about the new employment laws and legislation in New Jersey,” Probst said. “There are benefits to the employees. Over the last year, equal work equal pay laws and minimum wage laws have come out in New Jersey, along with medical leave and medical cannabis. The biggest thing that I have seen is you have to know the law as the business owner and business leader. You do not want to have to react to it two years from now when an employee sues you.”
Rob Hassold is the CEO of Cimquest, a Branchburg-based company that is a value-added seller of technology including 3-D printing. He said one of the most difficult realities for his customers is the lack of a skilled workforce.
“We are looking for the same talent,” Hassold said. “We struggle with the same things our customers do. Because there is a shortage of talent, manufacturers fear hiring someone who will leave for another company. We are trying to create a lot of options for our customers to train our people as efficiently as possible. I looked to work with county schools to dove-tail with their programs. I got frustrated because each county school wants to recreate the wheel.”