Getting to “WIRC” to Help the Industry’s Future
One of the five-year goals of WMIA’s strategic plan, which the Board of Directors approved during WIC 2018 earlier this year, is to partner with other industry associations to change the image of the industry to correct misconceptions and attract a new generation of employees.
We hear about the labor shortages being experienced in every aspect of the woodworking industry, and the manufacturing industry at large. WMIA’s Educational Foundation has certainly done its part to help encourage high school and college students continue their woodworking education, awarding more than $400,000 in scholarships over the last 20 years.
But greater work needs to be done if we’re going to be able to see an increase in the number of students that pursue woodworking and manufacturing careers.
In November 2017, WMIA joined with nine other industry associations to form the Wood Industry Resource Collaborative (WIRC), a coalition aimed primarily at perpetuating the long-term growth of the industry by sustaining an engaged workforce. The group’s purpose is to provide a collection of tools and solutions for the wood industry to attract and retain employees, while improving the perception of the industry.
In addition to WMIA, the associations which initially participated were: AWFS® (Association of Woodworking & Furnishings Suppliers); AWI (Architectural Woodwork Institute); CMA (Cabinet Makers Association); HMA (Hardwood Manufacturers Association); NWFA (National Wood Flooring Association); WCMA (Wood Component Manufacturers Association); WMMA (Wood Machinery Manufacturers of America); WMMPA (Moulding & Millwork Producers Association); and WPMA (Wood Products Manufacturers Association). Other associations have been participating in subsequent conference calls.
The Collaborative’s goals are to:
- Attract Employees: Increase student awareness of wood industry careers; increase parent awareness of wood industry careers; increase student engagement; and increase high school counselor awareness of wood industry careers.
- Retain Employees: Increase association memberships; improve association member engagement and satisfaction; and improve work culture at member companies.
- Improve the Perception of the Industry: Develop and communicate the stories of the industry; increase positive media coverage; increase engagement with legislative and educator communities; and involve more associations in WIRC initiatives.
The primary target for the group’s efforts will be Generation Z―people born between 1995 and 2014 who are the most diverse and multicultural of any generation in the U.S. Fifty-five percent are Caucasian, 24% are Hispanic, 14% are African-American and 4% are Asian. In addition to the youngest generation, the group will also target Millennials and possibly Gen Xers (parents, school counselors, etc.).
The next step is to partner with a marketing firm to help the Collaborative build a comprehensive strategy through which it will develop resources to reach its target audiences. WIRC members will be meeting during IWF to interview marketing firms which responded to an RFP sent out in July.
While WMIA and its Education Committee, led by Chris Hofmann of Colonial Saw Company, Inc., will continue identifying other avenues to help increase the workforce, including organizing events to coincide with Manufacturing Day in October, the work of WIRC should provide a strong framework from which to build.
We’ll continue to keep you updated on the Collaborative’s activities, but don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions.
WMIA President and CEO