Wednesday June 19, 2013

Workers with a specific skill set are needed for manufacturing jobs that are available in the Bennington area. That sentiment was recently echoed by Peter Odierna, executive director of the nonprofit Bennington County Industrial Corporation, as well as by area employers.

With the hopes of educating the public on what kinds of careers are available and what kind of education is needed to fill them, BCIC along with SWVT School, Workforce Partnership are presenting a public forum from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. this evening at Bennington Firehouse.

Composites will be the focus of the forum, which will include presentations by representatives of Bennington-based Plasan Carbon Composites and Kaman Composites of VT.

A composite, by definition, is made when two materials are combined to make a stronger material. Plasan operates a carbon fiber composite plant for automotive parts; Kaman designs and manufactures composite aerostructures and advanced composite medical equipment.

"We ran a similar forum last year which was kind of Composites 101," Odierna said. "This year’s event will be more forward-looking, focusing on the trends of lighter, stronger, safer and fuel efficiency and how that may play out in our community."

The 2012 forum was well attended by teens and folks in their early 20s, along with their parents, Odierna said, noting he hoped to see more of the same age groups in the audience tonight. The other target audience would be anyone who has an interest in the composite industry, he said.

According to a March 2013 Marketwatch article, "The carbon-fiber market is set to grow at a 13%-a-year clip, more than doubling in value from the current $14.6 billion to $36 billion by 2020."

The industry growth trend is only going up, according to Odierna, who added "this forum revolves around our planning for our next generation workforce."

"In 2012, the North America composites market grew strongly after modest growth in 2011. With sectors such as aerospace, wind energy, construction, and transportation performing well, the composites market significantly increased in North America," according to June 2013 Yahoo Finance article.

The article continued, "The future market is expected to be highly competitive, and companies with innovative capabilities can be anticipated to thrive and gain market share. This research further reveals that composite materials demand in the aerospace sector is expected to yield the strongest growth rate."

Tonight’s forum will close with information from the Career Development Center, Community College of Vermont and the Department of Labor as well as a question-and-answer period facilitated by Odierna.

He noted that engineers seem to always be in demand.

However, attracting skilled workers to the community, offering a sufficient supply of affordable rental housing geared toward young professionals, and keeping those workers in Bennington are additional challenges our community faces.

~Michelle Karas