By John B. Snyder, Watervliet Arsenal Public AffairsFebruary 21, 2017
WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. (February 21, 2017) -- As most Baby Boomers here have reached retirement age, the arsenal is aggressively trying to backfill that talented group when they retire with a younger generation of workers who will also want a career here manufacturing military hardware for the nation's troops.
One of the challenges, however, is that research shows that the prime generation for recruitment, who are called Millennials, aren't interested in manufacturing jobs. The other potential challenge with hiring Millennials is that they, according to a recent Gallup Business Journal survey, tend not to stay very long at a job. Millennials were born between 1981 and 1997.
And so, is the future of the historic Watervliet Arsenal at risk because of the challenges it is facing trying to build the workforce for the future?
If one considered that last month more than 900 people visited a job fair that was hosted on post, the short answer would be no. Given the success of that job fair, there seems to be no lack of interest in working at the Army's oldest, continuously operating arsenal.
Nevertheless, the arsenal is not taking any chances given that U.S. manufacturing will be critically short skilled workers in the near future. According to a recent report from the National Association of Manufactures, over the next decade, nearly 3 million manufacturing jobs will likely be needed, and 2 million are expected to go unfilled due to the skills gap.
One key effort the arsenal is taking is viewed as an investment by Apprentice Program Supervisor Robert Day, albeit an investment that will pay off many years from now.
Day has for years participated in career fairs at local high schools to talk to students about the wonders of a career in manufacturing. He took that effort a step forward on February 16 by hosting here seven high school students from the Sullivan County Career and Technical Education Center, who are enrolled in a two-year precision machining technical program.
"Although I love to tell the arsenal story to students in the local schools, I love it even more when I get to show them exactly what we do here," Day said. "To know that I have caught their attention when I show them the machines that forge 30-foot howitzer barrels is truly an unbelievably good feeling."
Day further explained that his excitement goes beyond trying to encourage students to consider a career in machining.
"Besides simply conducting these tours as a potential recruiting effort, I also believe that we have an obligation to pay back the community for its 200 years of support to the arsenal," Day said. "And what better way to do so than to participate in the education of our youth."
It is one thing for Day to get excited about hosting the students, but at the end of the day it is all about the students. So, what did they get out of their visit to the arsenal?
"This is my first year in the precision machining program and I never realized until visiting the arsenal just how large manufacturing machines could be," said Britany Clark, an 11th-grade student. "Additionally, it is one thing to create a design on paper, but to see how designs are machined into products was a great experience."
Clark said she is taking the precision machining course so that she will have experience in design and machining before she goes to college to obtain a degree in Biomedical Engineering. Thursday's visit, according to Clark, also provided her a better sense of the variety of careers that are available in manufacturing, as well as a better sense of how difficult it is to produce a product.
Michael Mullally, the Precision Machining Technology Program instructor, said that beyond the value of education, the visit to the arsenal was also a great opportunity for him to recruit for the future.
"There is unbelievable value taking a student who has been learning about machining in a classroom out to a large-scale manufacturing center," Mullally said. "These tours truly open up the students' eyes as to the variety of opportunities that are available in manufacturing and I'm hopeful that the students will share some of this visit's excitement with their friends and families."
As the students departed, Day wondered if he was able to inspire and excite the students toward a career in manufacturing. Just maybe, Day will find out when one of these students applies for a job here upon graduation. In the meantime, Day will host two classes of students in the next month from a local community college in an effort to not only tell the arsenal story, but also to recruit for the future.
The Watervliet Arsenal is an Army-owned-and-operated manufacturing facility and is the oldest, continuously active arsenal in the United States having begun operations during the War of 1812. It celebrated its 200th anniversary on July 14, 2013. It is a subordinate command to TACOM LCMC and the Army Materiel Command.
Today's Arsenal is relied upon by U.S. and allied armies to produce the most advanced, high-tech, high-powered weaponry for cannon, howitzer, and mortar systems. This National Historic Registered Landmark had revenue in fiscal year 2016 that exceeded $126 million and provides an annual economic benefit to the local community in excess of $90 million.