WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. (January 18, 2017) -- The arsenal has survived the ebbs and flows of defense budgets for more than 200 years by continuously transforming its operations and so, it should not surprise anyone to see the arsenal transform itself once again in order to fill approximately 100 current or soon to be current job openings.
For decades, Baby Boomers were the largest demographic pool from which the arsenal could draw from. But as the generation of Baby Boomers now leave the arsenal workforce in significant numbers, a concern here is how to replace this talented group who have found that manufacturing jobs gave them the quality of life that allowed them to buy homes, put their kids through school, and to now, enjoy their golden years.
This now leaves the arsenal forced to focus much of its recruiting efforts at what is called the Millennial Generation, those born between 1981 and 1997, depending on which historical tool used. This seems to make sense given that the Pew Research Center last April claimed that Millennials now surpass Baby Boomers as the largest living generation.
The challenge, however, is that nearly 50 percent of Millennials believe they will be working at some other place one year from now. According to a May 2016 article from the Gallup Business Journal titled, "Millennials: The Job-Hopping generation," the Millennial generation does not have the same job loyalty as previous generations.
Given that some occupations at the arsenal, such as a machinist, may take a new hire up to four years of education and 8,000 hours of hands-on training before they are qualified, it is critical the arsenal recruits for the long-term.
Additionally, many Millennials do not visualize a career in manufacturing due to their perceptions that manufacturing jobs are dirty, low-tech, and not very challenging. Those perceptions, albeit wrong, have directed far too many Millennials away from a career in manufacturing and from the arsenal.
When one combines those Millennial challenges with the recent report from the New York State Department of Labor stating that unemployment in the Capital District for November was 3.9 percent, the arsenal's recruiting challenge is at least three-fold.
The arsenal must compete for high-quality workers in a local job market that has less than four-percent unemployment, target a demographic that does not have a high propensity to consider manufacturing as a career, and that prospective employees may not be as motivated as Baby Boomers to stay for a career.
The arsenal leadership understands those challenges and now believes that they must transform decades-old recruiting practices of participating in job fairs outside of the fence line, competing with other government agencies and local businesses for top recruits.
For the first time in anyone's memory here, the arsenal will conduct a job fair on its installation January 20, in a grand effort to reach Millennials. And, because the job fair will be on the Army post, the arsenal will not compete with other businesses or government agencies.
"I have been here for 31 years and I cannot recall a job fair being conducted here," said William O'Brien, the arsenal's director of Installation Management. "Millennials now make up the largest group of working-age individuals in America and they are the future of the arsenal. With more than 80 different occupations here, there are plenty of growth opportunities that will challenge every generation of workers, especially the Millennial generation."
O'Brien added that through the on-post job fair, arsenal recruiters will be better able to talk about how the arsenal uses of science, technology, engineering, and math in each of its production lines, as well as in several other job fields not directly associated with machining.
"We will have some of our best and brightest team members available at the job fair to help us tell our story and to explain our career fields to prospective Millennials," O'Brien said.
Nevertheless, the arsenal will not turn away any high quality applicant, regardless of his or her generation, said Tina Pond, the chief human resource officer at the arsenal.
"The variety of career positions and the arsenal's culture creates opportunities for all generations to succeed here," Pond said. "We believe that every generation is important, as each offers unique strengths and qualities that will make a difference to our troops and to our nation."
After all, the motivators that drove Baby Boomers to stay for a career at the arsenal, such as health care, paid vacations, and a pension, are still available to new employees, Pond said.
The goal of the job fair is to offer tools, tips and advice to assist applicants with the job search process and to explain how to maneuver through the Federal and arsenal hiring process. Recruiters will be available to discuss the current and future status of job openings that will be offered in nearly 36 different career fields. Applicants will still need to apply through the USAJOBS website at https://www.usajobs.gov/
The fair will be conducted January 20, noon to 7 p.m., at the Watervliet Arsenal.
The Watervliet Arsenal is an Army-owned and operated manufacturing center having begun its operations in July 1813.