Nearly 50 percent of American employers report having difficulty filling open positions in Manpower Group’s 2018 Talent Shortage Survey. Of those open positions, skilled trades – such as electricians, welders and mechanics – are the hardest to fill. As the talent gap continues to be an issue at a national, statewide and local level, Afterschool Download is featuring a four-part series focused on skilled trades. In part three, we look at the wide variety of manufacturing companies and careers available in Flint & Genesee County.

Flint is often referred to as the Vehicle City, but not for the reason you might think. The nickname stems from the turn of the 20th century, when the city’s businesses were producing more than 100,000 horse-drawn carriages a year.

While carriages are now a thing of the past, the region never lost its reputation as a manufacturing hub. In fact, today, the region is home to nearly 300 manufacturing firms that employ more than 13,000 people.

These companies vary in scope and produce everything from the Chevrolet Silverado to Koegel’s hot dogs. Among them is Cumings Nets, a fishing tackle company that has been doing business in Flint since 1927. Employing around 15 people, Cumings manufactures thousands of fishing nets each month.

“The Cumings name has major brand recognition – we’re sold all over the country,” said John Denne, plant manager, noting that two of the company’s more well-known accounts include Meijer and Dunham Sports. “People often tell us, ‘I can’t believe I’ve lived here for so long and didn’t know this was here.”

While the business experiences little turnover – most employees have been with Cumings for at least five years – job applicants are always welcome to stop by the facility, at 2305 Branch Road in Flint, to fill out a form.

“The main thing we look for is the willingness to learn,” Denne said. “We don’t expect anyone to know how to do everything up front.”

That sentiment is echoed by newcomer Genusee, an eyewear brand that creates its frames using recycled plastic water bottles. The business currently shares a space with Caliber Optical in Flint Township and is looking to make its first hire: a full-time manufacturing and logistics associate.

“We’d love to have someone with a manufacturing background or experience in the optical field,” said Jack Burns, who co-founded the business with Ali Rose VanOverbeke. “But we believe that people are highly trainable, and this provides an on-the-job sort of education.”

Job seekers interested in applying for the position – which will involve assisting with manufacturing, quality control, shipping and logistics – are encouraged to send a cover letter and resume to contact@genusee.com.

Looking forward, Genusee plans to expand its operations to include a separate manufacturing facility within the year. By 2020, the company’s founders hope to employ 15 workers, with a focus on workers who have had a difficult time gaining employment for a variety of reasons.

For young people who are interested in working in manufacturing, Burns recommends exploring a variety of skilled trades.

“Try as many things as possible,” said Burns, who explored everything from construction and concrete straining to metalworking and glass blowing before going to college. “Figure out what you do and don’t like.”

To introduce area high school students to the many opportunities available within the manufacturing sector, the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce will once again host Manufacturing Day – which will be held locally on Nov. 7, 2018.

Participating students will have the opportunity to tour a variety of local manufacturing facilities and speak with staff responsible for different career areas, such as production, supervision and engineering.

For more information about Manufacturing Day or to sign up your student for the event, send an email to Amy Watts at awatts@flintandgenesee.org.

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