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Skilled laborers scarce locally

Posted: November 17, 2011 1:30 a.m.
Updated: November 17, 2011 1:30 a.m.

Panel members Rod Smith of Bayless Engineering, Brad Spahr of Specialty Motors and Bill Barritt of Aerospace Dynamics International speak on the manufacturing industry in California at the VIA luncheon Tuesday.

 


Local manufacturers shared how they battled the recession and voiced their concerns with the lack of area vocational training at the Valley Industry Association’s monthly luncheon and panel Tuesday.

The panel was composed of representatives from Bayless Engineering and Manufacturing and Specialty Motors and
Aerospace Dynamics local manufacturers who said they all took a hit during the recession, but, eventually, were able to hire back staff and invest in new infrastructure.

Rod Smith, vice president of Bayless, started off the panel discussion by describing how the recession has shaken the manufacturing industry.

“I’ve been in the business since I was a teenager, and I’d never seen anything like it,” Smith said.

Bayless maintained a core group of employees despite layoffs. That core group “understood what we had to do” to stay afloat, Smith said. It was able to work together to find cost-cutting technology and stay competitive in spite of budget cuts.

Now, Bayless is projected to finish out the calendar year with $15 million in sales and looks to increase that by $5 million in 2012.

Brad Spahr, president and CEO of Specialty Motors, which manufactures motor parts, called the recession “a threat to the very existence” of the small business. At its lowest, Specialty Motors’ revenue was down as much as 25 percent.

He echoed Smith by saying the use of new technology kept the company competitive, but criticized California’s high taxes for preventing the state from becoming the manufacturing capital that it could be.

Aerospace Dynamics International has recovered from the recession, and is growing to the point of adding a second shift of 60 employees, said CFO Bill Barritt.

However, Barritt said it has been difficult to fill the shift with locals who have the technical machinery experience, and he has had to recruit from all around Southern California.

Smith and Spahr echoed his concerns that vocational training isn’t as clear of an option for Santa Clarita students. The panelists, however, recognized the College of the Canyons’ vocational training as a step in the right direction for the community.

Smith said the shift is also a cultural one, in which future generations won’t have grown up with hands-on training at home, either.

“How many kids work on cars?” he asked.

If manufacturers want to continue to be successful in a generation or two, Barritt said, as the panel winded down, schools will need to make vocational training a viable option for students, instead of only marketing college as the traditional route.

The next VIA luncheon will be on Dec. 20 at 11:30 a.m. at the Valencia Country Club. The luncheon will also serve as the 2012 board installation ceremony.

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