Well-designed workforce education programs ensure that every employee is operating at a high level, says Castillo. That, in turn, leads to the overall success of the company. It also helps spread a positive message about the industry as a whole.

“As composites manufacturers, if we don’t put in the effort to train employees, then we can’t complain when workers come in and don’t understand what we’re about,” says Castillo. “It’s up to us to educate not only the people at work, but in the community, too, catching people while they are young and getting them interested in composites.” Bestbath routinely holds facility tours for the local chamber of commerce and school kids. “Composites are the wave of the future,” says Castillo.

Securing the Industry’s Future

For composites to become widely accepted as the material of choice in the future, then solving the workforce development puzzle is imperative. “The biggest threat to workplace readiness is the availability of qualified human capital,” says Harmon Heath. “You can have the most robust technology, but if you don’t have a skilled workforce to execute it, it doesn’t matter.”

Preparing that workforce requires a team effort among industry, academic institutions, local and state governments and other interested parties. “It’s very hard for a company to do workforce development on its own. It’s only the really big players with big human resource departments that can do it themselves,” says Calwell.

Fortunately, it’s a good time for collaboration as is evident by IACMI’s recent MEEP grant and Apprenticeship Works’ new DOL-sanctioned composites technician apprenticeship. “Companies should take advantage of the fact that at this point in time, a lot of people want to help them,” says Calwell. “There are groups to help and money out there for workforce training.”