Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics recently unveiled a 147,200-square-foot expansion of its Flanders plant — a project driven by a $36.6 million, 10-year tax credit tied to its commitment to more than double the existing 450 employees it has in the area.
To fill those jobs, though, Siemens is looking to its neighbor: the County College of Morris.
“We’re working with the County College of Morris on programs to help bring the workforce of the future in,” said Jerome Hagedorn, Flanders site head at Siemens. “They’ve worked with us on tailoring positions that we have been involved (with), in the technologies, and have been very good in partnering with us.”
Patrick Enright, dean of the Division of Business, Mathematics, Engineering and Technologies at Randolph-based CCM, said the partnership has been mutually beneficial.
“There are a lot of manufacturers out there having trouble finding people with the right skills,” he said. “These manufacturing situations are high-tech and you need highly educated people with real skills.”
To find these people, Enright said Siemens has been active at the college in several capacities. One such relationship involves the Engineering, Design and Advanced Manufacturing Program, which is also being orchestrated in conjunction the Morris County School of Technology in Denville and begins this upcoming fall.
This three-way partnership aims to create a pipeline of local talent to get young students on the track to employment over the next decade of projected growth for Siemens.
“We will be having their high school juniors and seniors come here for half a day to begin our mechanical engineering technology program,” he said. “They will be receiving both high school and college credit by participating. By the time they graduate (high school), they will have completed one whole year in this program.”
Siemens’ involvement began at the beginning and brought a lot of visibility of the field to prospective students, Enright said.
“When we kicked off this program, we did an open house for high school students and their parents,” he said. “Siemens came over and talked to the parents about our program, their job market and their expected job market into the future.”
That type of endorsement of an academic program is novel, but also something that catches the ears of parents who are concerned about future prospects for their children.
“That kind of corporate backing for an instructional program is very important for giving parents a sense of confidence that this program actually connects up to a job market,” Enright said. “It’s one thing for educators to say it, (but) it’s an entirely different thing to have the company come in, talk about their employee needs into the future and validate the kind of program that we’ve put together.”
Enright also said there are plans for Siemens and the college to work together in providing “co-op” work experience for students in the program.
Though the program is launching its partnership with the Morris County School of Technology this fall, it’s been active on the campus of the college. And Siemens already has grabbed some talent from the school.
“While we’re expanding it to include the high school students, it’s a pretty active program right now and I know Siemens has already hired several of the students in our program,” Enright said. “By connecting up, they have access to this well-trained group of students.”
Having this connection with the school and creating a pipeline that prepares students for future employment with the company, right in the backyard of its Flanders location, ties into the company’s broader effort to streamline its operations.
That was the thinking behind the expansion of its plant in Flanders, which the company celebrated May 1 in a ceremony attended by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.
“This was to, on one hand, consolidate some of the manufacturing capacity we had. We were moving certain things from Brookfield, Connecticut to Flanders,” Siemens CEO Franz Walt said. “And I also wanted to bring research and development for instrumentation as well as manufacturing for instrumentation closer together.”
This consolidation, what Walt calls a “bringing together of functions,” is aimed at making the disparate parts of the company more compatible through better communication.
“If they are all over the U.S. in different types of offices, it’s more difficult to communicate,” he said. “It’s important to have a flawless transition and design transfer between R&D, basically the conceptual work, and the actual manufacturing work.”
Enright said he sees that overarching business strategy of streamlining operations through communication in the school’s dealings with the company.