The manufacturing industry continued to thrive during the pandemic. With the growth, the need for more workers has come to the fore.
AUSTIN, Texas – Since the start of the pandemic, manufacturing has not stopped.
“We never shut down a day,” said Eric Wichmann, vice president of the Southwest region for Virtex Enterprises.
Wichmann oversees hiring at Virtex’s Austin manufacturing plant. Workers make products ranging from voting machines to defense and aerospace contracts.
Throughout the pandemic, Virtex has been unable to keep its apartment building along Interstate 35 in North Austin filled with workers.
“We struggled the whole time,” Wichmann said.
Wichmann first said the understaffing was the product of increased unemployment benefits and the fact that people could earn more from those benefits than they would at Virtex. However, since Governor Greg Abbott excluded Texas from additional federal benefits, people have started submitting more job applications.
“It’s something we’re adjusting to and we’re going to have to keep making those adjustments,” Wichmann said. “We offer everything from $ 12 to $ 17 [an hour], but we understand that it is increasing. I think that’s probably where the market is right now. But I think in the future it’s going to increase, especially with competition for workers coming up. “
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Wichmann added that the number of manufacturing jobs exceeds the number of workers. Skillpoint Alliance, an Austin-based nonprofit manufacturing training organization, has opened 100 new training slots in its Certified Parts Technician (CPT) program to try and fill some of these positions.
“We are educating the community through various entities to try to communicate the class and needs of the manufacturing industry,” said Kevin Brackmeyer, executive director of Skillpoint Alliance. “We expect there will be 15,000 jobs over the next two years. We have employers who are ready to hire tomorrow when they graduate, when those graduates come out.
The Skillpoint Alliance CPT program has 6 to 15 students. On Friday, a new class of six students will graduate, some with job offers already on the table.
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Maximo Quiroz, who graduated on Friday, said he received offers from a few major manufacturers based in Austin.
“I found out that I wanted to find something that had some stability for my future. I kind of want to make something a career,” Quiroz said.
Quiroz already has experience and expertise across multiple industries, but said manufacturing ties all of his knowledge together.
“I have a degree in graphic and web design,” Quiroz said. “I’m also an artist myself, so this creativity, I’m able to take that to the next level with 3D printing. All you have to say to me is, ‘Oh, you can do this. It does that. He He put the tools. Now it’s up to me to take those skills and keep pushing. “
Saif Ur Rehman Ludin graduated alongside Quiroz on Friday. Ludin immigrated to the United States from Afghanistan in 2015 and jokes that speaking English is like speaking a “fifth language”. Because of polio, her right leg cannot support her body weight without the help of a brace. Ludin takes everything in hand, complaining only of one problem: his corset has holes in his pants just days after buying it.
He went to several companies to ask for a solution. No one helped him, so he took the Skillpoint course and created his own.
“That tiny little thing, you know, she was cutting my jeans because the jeans were stuck right here,” Ludin said pointing to the hinges of her corset.
To solve his problem, Ludin created a design and began 3D printing a cover for the corset hinges as part of a project for his Skillpoint class. He plans to continue manufacturing now that he has learned the safety features and some knowledge of different machines.
“First of all, I’m going to find a job in a manufacturing industry,” Ludin said. “A company like Tesla is also a manufacturing company. Samsung is also a manufacturing company. And on top of that, I will be able to study more. [companies provide] help out, like they have some kind of, you know, a sum of money that they can invest in eager workers to learn. I will have this opportunity and then I will learn more and become like a good engineer and then you know I will create things [on] mine.”
While Skillpoint’s 100 open training opportunities are free, they alone won’t solve the manufacturing workforce shortage. Brackmeyer staff hope more people will see the importance and enthusiasm behind manufacturing.
“The sky is the limit. You can learn whatever you need. Even then the sky is not even the limit, okay we have SpaceX, they go to space! no more limits now. OK, so there’s nothing stopping you from getting in there, “said Justin Frost, who taught Ludin and Quiroz’s CPT class.
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