People are a Manufacturer's Best Asset

posted on Tuesday, March 13, 2018 in  College News

Success in manufacturing is more than adding up the number of parts put together at the end of the day. Truly thriving companies understand it’s about the people who assemble those parts, and how you build, retain, and expand a dynamic workforce.

That’s the driving force behind this year’s Cedar Valley Manufacturing Conference, planned for April 11, 2018, at Hawkeye Community College. Every year this conference brings together business and industry leaders across the Cedar Valley to discuss innovative ideas, best practices, and the year ahead. The focus for 2018 is on what is arguably the most important asset to any manufacturing company: its people.

Every business wants to recruit the best workers, which is increasingly difficult and competitive. Black Hawk County’s unemployment rate is 3.4 percent, just slightly above Iowa’s 2.8 percent. As more jobs open and manufacturers look to grow, it’s a struggle to find the people to fill those roles.

Recruitment is obviously a concern for companies, but perhaps the larger issue is retention. When unemployment is low and demand for skilled workers is high, companies look at the workforce next door to see who they can recruit. Building a strong, stable workforce is key to more than producing a quality product. For manufacturers, it’s the secret to long-term success.

Manufacturers have talked about innovation for a long time, usually through the lens of manufacturing processes. During the conference, we’ll focus on innovation in recruitment, training, and retention. Keynote speaker Bill Withers will share his insights on how four- and five-star companies deal with change, workplace culture, and worker engagement.

Innovation in recruiting, training, and retaining a skilled workforce will be at the forefront of this year’s conference. This will include a presentation on a self-directed cross-training model where employees are empowered to identify training opportunities and collaborate with leadership to draft training plans. We’ll also learn about summer internship programs to foster an interest in manufacturing among high school students, discuss “outside-the-box” ideas for recruiting and hiring new talent, and learn how one rural Iowa manufacturer is adding automation.

There are many more breakout sessions and other topics in this one-day event – too many to mention all at once. Visit for details on the full schedule. I know I’m looking forward to a great conversation.

Pam Wright, PHR, SHRM-CP, CCT, is Director of Business and Community Outreach for Hawkeye Community College Business and Community Education


  1. Advanced Manufacturing
  2. Article by Pam Wright
  3. Business and Community Education
  4. Cedar Valley Manufacturing Conference
  5. Corporate and Business Solutions
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