Millennials in Manufacturing: Jobs Growing, Qualified Workers Needed

OCTOBER, 07, 2013 —

Storm Copper STEM Program, Internships, and Sponsorships Help Emerging Workers Become Job-Ready

Manufacturing jobs are growing steadily, but the pool of qualified candidates to fill those roles is not keeping pace. The April cover story in TIME magazine highlighted the fact that while the U.S. economy as a whole continues to struggle, the manufacturing industry has grown at a much faster rate, with 500,000 jobs being added in the last three years. A recent article in The Christian Science Monitor states that this growth has left many manufacturers desperate for skilled employees. While unemployment remains stagnant at 16.3 percent for 16 – 24 year olds, this industry growth has made manufacturing careers plentiful, particularly for millennials.

While the news on job growth is good, Tennessee manufacturing is facing other challenges. The Nashville Business Journal reports that in the last decade, The Volunteer State’s manufacturing job base dropped by 35.4 percent, creating a shortage of employees to fill increasing job openings. To help meet this employer demand, companies like Storm Copper are giving local schools and universities the support they need to prepare students to become talented, qualified candidates for manufacturing careers. The copper manufacturer expresses this commitment with its STEM program, which prepares high school students for the manufacturing sector; via Storm Interns, the company’s internship and apprentice program; through a scholarship with Tennessee Technical Center, and with corporate sponsorships that support Southern Polytechnic State University engineering students who design, build, and race electric vehicles.

To foster interest in today’s manufacturing environment, Storm’s president Carol Howard is an active partner with Meigs County High School, where she presents the STEM program, teaching about manufacturing with the goal of enabling successful class graduates to enter into the Storm workforce in a mid- level position. Howard teaches students mathematics, pre-engineering skills and blueprint reading.

“Today’s manufacturing environment isn’t the noisy, dirty, stressful workplace of yesterday,” states Howard. “Current jobs require technical skills and specialized training, and Storm is dedicated to job-readiness. We get out to where the students are, from the high school to college level. Our programs and resources focus on teaching students technical and professional skills, so they are not only job-ready, but real-life-ready as well.”

Scott Moon and Matt Sneed, who co-teach with Howard, are real-life success story for students. Moon and Sneed are Meigs County High School graduates—and lead engineers at Storm.

Another way Storm is fostering interest in the manufacturing industry and encouraging students to gain practical experience is through corporate sponsorship. Storm is the exclusive power components sponsor for the Electric Vehicles Team at Southern Polytechnic State University. Through involved corporate sponsorship, Storm is helping this team achieve their goal of having electric vehicles race day-ready for international competitions.

Many new manufacturing jobs require at least a two-year tech degree to complement artisan skills such as welding or milling. Over the past three years, Storm has provided much-needed financial aid to educate future computer numerated controlled (CNC) machinists through a scholarship program at Tennessee Technical College.

Failure to Launch, a recent report by the Georgetown Center for Education and Workforce details the need for workplace readiness programs. “The on-ramp to career requires more entry-level preparation than it did for previous generations,” says Anthony Carnevale, center director and lead author of the study. “The formula for career success today is more complicated than simply getting a college degree” he goes on. That’s where the component manufacturer’s expanded apprentice and internship program—Storm Interns—bridges the divide.  

Through Storm internships, students have opportunities to learn about the industry, and to garner real-world experience in their chosen field before they graduate. “Internships are a true win-win for all parties involved. Storm has access to fresh, bright, talented people who have yet to enter the job market, and students have the opportunity to put into action what they are learning before going to work full-time,” says Kimberley Kelly, Marketing Director of Storm Copper. “We create summer plans specifically tailored for each of our interns, and students spend the summers immersed in real projects with tangible business outcomes.” Recent, highly successful internships have resulted in full-time positions, industry exposure, professional experience, and interviewing skill development

Graphic Design Intern Pauline Dorsey

In June 2013, Pauline Dorsey came to Storm Copper Components as an Intern in the Marketing Department, where she had an opportunity to learn about corporate design and brand development for the metals fabrication industry. She is now employed at Storm as a Junior Graphic Designer.


“I was thrilled when Storm extended a full-time position to me,” comments Dorsey. “Working here is fascinating. They don’t just manufacture industrial pieces. Every single time Storm makes something, it is a unique, custom-designed component. That is amazing to me. And everyone at Storm is dedicated to their work, but more than that, they truly enjoy their work.”

Not every internship opportunity at Storm results in a full-time position; however, the skills-assessment and interviewing process that internship candidates undergo when applying adds great value for the students. Each intern applicant must pass competency exams in both Microsoft PowerPoint and Excel, and demonstrate solid writing skills in required essays. The interview process alone helps better prepare them for future interviews.

In addition to developing job searching skills, Storm Interns also have the opportunity to learn about the manufacturing industry.

Market Research Intern Nichole Lee

Market Research Intern Nichole Lee graduated in spring 2013 from Georgia State University with a degree in Marketing and Psychology. In the near future, she will begin working toward a Master’s degree in Market Research at the University of Georgia—the only school in the southeast that offers the degree.
During her internship, Nichole’s major project was researching the strategies that businesses employ to increase their online channel sales. The data she collected, along with her evaluation of that data, has been published in a report titled, Business to Business E-Commerce Best Practices.

 “I was able to learn about an industry I might not otherwise have experienced. Most of my professional experience has been in the hospitality industry, so learning about the industrial/manufacturing industry was very interesting. The internship helped me understand the hierarchy in manufacturing, to learn about the day-to-day operations, and how things are done  differently in an industrial setting than they are in other industries. “

Other internships are designed specifically to help students develop professional skills in their chosen field of study.. This gives them real-world experience to help tackle their senior-year capstone coursework, and allows them to be better prepared for a position on their first day employment, providing them with an advantage over other candidates.

Finance Intern Lauren Dymecki

Lauren Dymecki is a senior accounting major at Auburn University who worked in accounts payable in the Finance Department this summer. According to Storm’s Director of Finance, Shane Sparks, “Lauren was able to gain hands-on accounting and finance experience because her position was designed to provide real-life project work. This kind of experience can truly help the student make realistic and knowledgeable decisions about their future career goals.“

“The internship at Storm was an amazing opportunity, and helped me learn so much about manufacturing industry,” states Dymecki. “I gained exactly the kind of in-depth financial and accounting experience I was looking for from an internship.”

Storm Interns continues to expand, and currently is recruiting for an engineering and market research intern. Job descriptions for current internship opportunities can be found on the Storm Facebook page, or on the Storm website.