By John B. Snyder, Watervliet ArsenalAugust 7, 2017
WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. (Aug. 7, 2017) -- The Army-owned arsenal at Watervliet, N.Y., deals in numbers every day, from how many direct labor hours are expended to how many mortar baseplates have shipped. Nevertheless, there are numbers that are becoming more visible, if not nearly as important, to the Arsenal leadership that has recently caught their attention.
"When I took command in July 2016, I knew that after 200 years of operation the Arsenal's importance certainly transcended its ability to provide high quality weapons to our troops," said Arsenal Commander Col. Joseph Morrow. "But what I didn't appreciate at the time is just how much value people outside of the Arsenal fence line give to landing a job here. The interest to work here is nothing short of phenomenal."
Morrow highlighted a job fair hosted at the Arsenal last January as the first evidence to him regarding the value the community places on a job here.
"During the planning for the January job fair, which was the first job fair hosted on the Arsenal in a generation, many of us were concerned that there might not be enough people interested to make the job fair viable," Morrow said. "The job fair proved us wrong, as more than 900 people braved the cold weather to talk to Arsenal subject-matter experts about job opportunities here."
Then in March, the Arsenal had more than 400 apply for 14 job openings for machinist apprentices. The Arsenal began its apprentice program in 1905 and now works with the Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, N.Y., to produce the finest machinists in the Army. After a rigorous four-year-program that requires the apprentices to obtain 8,000 hours of hands-on training here while they attend night school, which is fully paid by the Army, the U.S. Department of Labor certifies the apprentices as machinists.
John Zayhowski, the Arsenal's chief of manufacturing, said he believes the great interest in working at the Arsenal transcends generations.
"When you (the Arsenal) have been operating for more than 200 years, you are bound to have tens of thousands locally who have in some way had someone they know, quite often a family member or a neighbor, work here," Zayhowski said. "This word of mouth campaign by countless individuals about how great working here have been to their ability to raise a family and to enjoy the benefits of a good middle-class living continues to be retold during the interview process."
After all, the word of mouth campaign worked for Zayhowski as his parents had both worked at the Arsenal and had planted a seed in him regarding the benefits and the value of working for the Army.
Nevertheless, Zayhowski comes from a different, younger generation than the Baby Boomers who have for many years led the Arsenal. And because he does, he has a different take on how to communicate to potential applicants.
"Word of mouth can only go so far given that our employment numbers are a fraction of what they were in the 1970s and 1980s," Zayhowski said. "Because most people today get their information from their phones, personal tablets, and from their computers, we are leveraging social media to mutually support our recruiting efforts in traditional media outlets, such as newspapers."
Zayhowski said that just this past month, the Arsenal posted a job announcement flyer onto its Facebook page and in less than seven days the announcement had been viewed more than 194,000 times.
This profound interest by thousands to work at the Watervliet Arsenal is welcomed relief to Morrow.
"After many years of stagnant revenue growth, we have turned the corner and have locked in more than $100 million of future work just in the first half of this year," Morrow said. "To support this expansion of work, we have a critical need for skilled labor, which nationally is in short supply. Nevertheless, due to the current flood of interest to work here, we will be able to be very selective to ensure that we fill our vacancies with the very best our country has to offer."
According to the National Association of Manufacturers, two million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled over the next decade due to a shortage of skilled labor. Trying to fill those positions according to the Association will be very tough given the millennial generation's reluctance to work in manufacturing.
Nevertheless, the Arsenal is chipping away with 87 positions currently needing to be filled now. With hundreds of thousands of people recently learning and talking about the job opportunities here, filling those 87 positions should break with industry trends by it being easy for the Arsenal to find a sufficient number of qualified job applicants.
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.