First Person: Commentary by Bennett Johnson, CEO of DePaul Industries

| Print |  Email
Tuesday, August 01, 2006

{safe_alt_text}There are a lot of good manufacturing jobs and students who need them. Let’s make the connection.

By Bennett Johnson

`As CEO of DePaul Industries, I spend a good deal of my time working with other business people in continual efforts to strengthen Oregon’s competitive edge. In my involvement with various local industry groups, from the Northwest Food Processor Association to the Clackamas Business Alliance to the Workforce Investment Council of Clackamas County, one theme is constant: Our success depends on a sustainable, trained workforce.

Business people are concerned about workforce talent and training. Many of us believe that with global competition pounding on Oregon’s door, the business community needs to take action to maintain a competitive manufacturing industry that supports living-wage jobs and economic growth.

Manufacturing is an essential element in the overall Oregon economy. The service sector and agricultural industries do not sufficiently diversify Oregon business. In Portland, manufacturing jobs are growing at a steady rate each year. More workers will be needed.

Our schools seem to focus on college degrees. However, not all high school graduates are college-bound, and not all good jobs require a college diploma. More and more I am hearing that jobs with very strong wage potential are going unfilled because graduating high school students are unaware of careers available in the manufacturing industry.

Too often schools ignore career opportunities in manufacturing. If students see college as the only option, that is a limited canvas, fitting for only a portion of the student population. Many jobs in industry aren’t related to a four-year degree; they are skilled and technical jobs. Industry needs to make sure educators have a broader view, and together the two sides can make a powerful impact on the future of our youth.

While attention is focused on the importance of higher education, and rightly so, more consideration should be paid to an area that has real career potential. I am not talking about jobs that will top out at $15 per hour. I am talking about jobs that with experience and some technical training have the potential to pay $50,000 to $75,000 in less than five years. For those who move into supervision and management, the earning potential is even higher.

Industries also need to work harder at reaching educators to demonstrate that manufacturing jobs can provide viable careers. Companies need to hit the pavement, spreading the word that they have some exciting opportunities with highly technical jobs that can enable people to work toward a prosperous future.

DePaul Industries operates three distinct businesses: Temporary Staffing Services, Security Services, and Food and Consumer Goods Packaging. We recently started developing closer relationships with our area high schools to offer work and training opportunities for clerical jobs. We are targeting 18-23-year-olds who are not necessarily college-bound.

It was not very easy in the beginning. We had a few false starts, but through effort and determination on both sides we are now working together effectively. Graduates of this free program are given first crack at clerical positions through DePaul Industries Temporary Staffing Services. We are just now beginning to see the first crop of graduates head to work.

Future plans include summer work programs in our manufacturing plant. For many, we expect this will be their first experience on a production floor. It is the perfect opportunity to see what jobs are available in this type of industry.

There are living wage jobs available in manufacturing that can offer many individuals prosperity and a solid career path. Getting the word out will require commitment on both the part of industry and our schools.

There are good people who need good jobs, good companies looking for capable workers, and schools that need to help students with career choices. Pick up the phone and make the connection. It can be that simple and solve so many problems.

Bennett Johnson is CEO of DePaul Industries in Portland and a member of the Workforce Investment Council of Clackamas County.

Have an opinion? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

More Articles

Corner Office: Pam Edstrom

January-Powerbook 2015
Saturday, December 13, 2014

Seven tidbits of information from an agency partner and co-founder of Waggener Edstrom in Lake Oswego.


Read more...

Editor's Letter: Power Play

January-Powerbook 2015
Thursday, December 11, 2014

There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace. 

Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.

This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay. 

Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.

New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”

That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!

— Linda


Read more...

Reimagining education to solve Oregon's student debt and underemployment problems

News
Thursday, November 13, 2014
carsonstudentdept-thumbBY RYAN CARSON | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

How do we skill up our future technology workforce in a smart way to take advantage of these high-paying jobs? The answer shouldn’t focus only on helping people get a bachelor’s degree.


Read more...

The short list: 5 companies making a mint off kale

The Latest
Thursday, November 20, 2014
kale-thumbnailBY OB STAFF

Farmers, grocery stores and food processors cash in on kale.


Read more...

Powerbook Perspective

January-Powerbook 2015
Friday, December 12, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

A conversation with Oregon state economist Josh Lehner.


Read more...

Corner Office: Marv LaPorte

January-Powerbook 2015
Saturday, December 13, 2014

The president of LaPorte & Associates lets us in on his day-to-day life.


Read more...

See How They Run

January-Powerbook 2015
Friday, December 12, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

Studying ground-running birds, a group that ranks among nature's speediest and most agile bipedal runners, to build a faster robot.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS