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Expert, in Buffalo speech, cites need for manufacturers to attract new talent

Martin L. Scaglione understands the frustration that manufacturers have with finding the right workers to hire.

But he also believes that there is more they can do about it.

The workforce-development specialist said it starts with manufacturers sending “signals” to suppliers of labor – schools and colleges, for instance – about exactly what they need.

“Because if you don’t, we’re not going to find the workforce, because they’re not going to be prepared for the jobs that you have,” Scaglione said. “There’s plenty of arms and legs to go around. There just isn’t enough skill to go around.”

Scaglione, president and CEO of the Hope Street Group, spoke at a Buffalo Niagara Partnership event Thursday on a pressing issue for manufacturers – and one with no simple solution.

He pointed to a forecast that the nation will need to fill 2.5 million to 3 million manufacturing jobs between now and 2021. Locally, the Partnership says, 20,000 manufacturing positions will need to be filled by 2020 – just from retirements, not accounting for any hiring needs stemming from companies’ growth.

Manufacturers have to make a case that their plants are more-appealing places to work than they used to be: “The problem is, we haven’t told the world that.”

They also have to make clear the type of jobs they are trying to fill – and what workers need in order to get hired, Scaglione said.

“Are you connected with your source of supply for talent?” he asked. “Are you giving them the signals they need? ‘Signals’ meaning, what are the competencies, the skills that are necessary to be successful in these occupations, so they can prepare people?”

If employers can’t find the workers they need, he said, they’ll either go without or find alternatives. And the result of that is fewer good-paying jobs to provide economic fuel for the rest of the community, he said.

All of these issues resonate in the Buffalo Niagara region, said Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, the Partnership’s president and CEO.

One priority is to bring more people into the workforce by tapping into an increasingly diverse labor pool and using programs such as Say Yes Buffalo to develop future talent, she said. “If you want to have more people in the workforce, we have to work together to make that happen.”

The region has managed to stem the heavy outflow of workers, Gallagher-Cohen said, but still is “not a destination of choice to import new workers.”

“We’re not where Austin is, or any of these other markets, which means for all of us, we share this workforce,” she said, referring to the Texas city. “And in order for us to have the workforce of tomorrow, we need to bring people into the workforce who are not there now.”

email: mglynn@buffnews.com

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