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Developing Tomorrow's Workforce

By Jim Powers, President, Continental Consolidated Industries

Continental Consolidated Industries manufactures high quality store displays and architectural millwork for national and local accounts. Being a custom manufacturer, we are dependent upon the skills and talent of our workforce. Being in a competitive market supplying custom product, we need to manufacture better and faster than the competition. Competing nationally with our Massachusetts cost base requires us to be much better than our competitors.

The lack of available skilled workers has been an on-going problem for the company. Even in a down economy, it was difficult to find qualified cabinet-makers.

One solution to this problem is to work with the area vocational schools to promote woodworking as a career opportunity and the benefits of a career in an technology-driven industry.

In conjunction with the Manufacturing Advancement Center and several other woodworking companies in the area, we developed a short film to educate would-be vocational students. Even though some of the participants were competitors, we collaborated on the film, all believing that building the pool of qualified workers would benefit everyone.

Along with producing the film, we have hosted plant tours for students from Worcester Vocational High School during their freshman exploratory period as well as students in the carpentry program at Bay Path Regional Vocational School.

We believe that our efforts have in some way lead to a substantial increase in enrollment in the carpenter program at Worcester Voc. In academic year 2000 there were 42 students enrolled in the entire carpentry program for all four grades; in 2004 they had 28 applicants just for the 24 spots in the freshman class.

This past June, we hired a vocational graduate who had worked for us during the school year through the co-op program.

The investment of time and resources to promote our industry to future tradesmen has been substantial but it is absolutely necessary for our future. The time spent has been appreciated by the administration, teachers, and students, and has been enjoyable for our employees.

ontinental Consolidated Industries is located at 181 Greenwood Street, Worcester, MA 01607. Jim can be reached at (508) 756-4372, jpowers@continentalconsolidated.com

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