NEW COLUMBIA – There are plenty of opportunities to begin and maintain a career in the manufacturing industry…That was the message during Friday’s ‘Manufacturing Day’ celebration at the new GAF Plant in New Columbia.
Friday, the plant gave a presentation and tour of its facility to Pennsylvania’s DCED Deputy Secretary for Technology and Innovation Steve D’Etorre and some Milton High School students. GAF Plant Manager Michael Widerquist, “You gotta raise awareness to school-aged students and let them know that the manufacturing has changed, its highly automated now, and it’s not the doom and gloom maybe their parents experienced.”
GAF’s local location, which opened in 2017, is one of the manufacturer’s 49 plants across the US, the largest manufacturer in North America. The plant also recently broke ground on its expansion project a month ago, and that is due to be on line in 2021.
The plant currently has 53 employees, only 14 of whom need at least a four-year degree, but Widerquist says the plant is dealing with struggles due to a skills gap in the industry, specifically in maintenance, “The challenge is just in the hiring. You have a smaller pool for the Central PA manufacturers in this area to pull from, and also to be able to expand. If you don’t have the right workers with the right skillset, it makes it difficult to expand in manufacturing in this area.”
D’Etorre says the state’s visions for manufacturing are the same as GAF’s when it comes to recruiting. He says the state is continuing to do its part to promote manufacturing, “Manufacturing isn’t necessarily the manufacturing of yester-year, with the dirty, dark and dangerous. Companies like GAF and others can serve as examples for the new age or next phase of manufacturing.”
D’Etorre also says the state recently became a part of the SSTI Policy Academy, a Washington, D.C.-based academy designed to help states with manufacturing strategies and resources. GAF says the plant plans to host other Valley schools later this year to promote this same initiative.