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January 30, 2018 Manufacturing insights

Glass manufacturer expanding, but new hires slow

Courtesy/SCHOTT Robert Brissard, director of operations for SCHOTT North America.

Workforce development is a common theme in manufacturing, and Germany-based glass manufacturer SCHOTT is no different. The company, with two locations in Southbridge and a North American headquarters in New York, is expanding but struggling to fill vacant positions. The company had a visit this month from Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), about what can be done to help fill those positions with qualified candidates. Robert Brissard, the director of operations for the company’s North America operations, sat down to answer some questions from the WBJ about the company’s needs. 

We're a little unfamiliar with SCHOTT. Can you tell us what the company makes? 

SCHOTT is a multinational corporation specializing in glass solutions. It has 47 sites around the world with the Southbridge site serving the defense, medical, industrial, aviation and automotive industries. Major products produced at this site are inverters for the defense night-vision industry and flexible fiber optics for medical diagnostics.

We’ve learned the company recently expanded in Southbridge. What are the details of the Southbridge location expansions? 

The recent facility upgrades were made to the administrative section of the buildings with a goal of enhancing the overall image to the marketplace. We will continue to invest in production capability improvement and have committed over $2 million in capital investment over the next two years to support that growing business.

What are the expansions to be used for?

This was necessary to support the volume expansion of both of the previously mentioned product lines, which resulted in over 30 new jobs last year. 

Manufacturing is getting a lot of good press these days. Is that helping to drum up interest in those jobs?

While we added 30+ jobs last year, it was a struggle to find qualified candidates and each one took much longer that we hoped. There just aren’t enough young people in the marketplace who feel that manufacturing is a viable career choice. Those of us in industry and in academia must do more to demonstrate to youth that manufacturing can be a very attractive alternative to a traditional college education.

How many unfilled jobs are there at the company?

There are currently 11 unfilled positions.

What is the company doing to recruit new talent? 

We are utilizing temp agencies and recruiters as well as our company website to advertise positions. We also have an active referral program. 

What came from the meeting with Rep. Neal?

We have established a working relationship with Springfield Technical Community College and will soon visit their technology center so they can display their offerings. They have toured our facility and gained an understanding of our needs relative to the necessary skills.

We appreciate all Rep. Neal has done to communicate industry needs both locally and on the Hill. He is very much in tune with the urgency needed to address the skills problems this growth opportunity presents to local industry.

This interview was conducted and edited for clarity by WBJ Staff Writer Zachary Comeau.

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