Furniture industry faces labor shortage

November 18 – HIGH POINT – It has been difficult for furniture companies to hire in recent years, even for skilled and well-paying jobs, and there is no abatement on the horizon in competition for workers, local business representatives said during a discussion forum Thursday.

So the group will meet again in January to start working on a strategy to advance awareness broadly, but especially among young people, about pay and available opportunities.

The Congdon Yards discussion was hosted by GuilfordWorks, the local workforce development agency, and attracted about two dozen people, a mix of furniture executives, human resources officers and marketing professionals.

Part of the problem is a widespread perception that furniture manufacturing all but disappeared in the 2000s, and part is a lack of knowledge about how the industry and available jobs are not old-fashioned manufacturing jobs, several participants said.

One cited a specialist upholstery job at his company that, a few years ago, paid $35,000 a year, but now pays $70,000 or more and is still hard to fill.

Arturo Campana of Cisco Brothers Corp. said that when his California-based company opened a factory in High Point five years ago to serve East Coast customers, “we couldn’t hire anybody to save our lives.”

Finally, after advertising in the Spanish-speaking media, he found the workers he needed, but he believes many people don’t realize the opportunities that exist in the sector.

David Farris of Ted Scott Designs said some people don’t seem to realize that furniture manufacturing is still going on here, and expressed frustration with what he saw as a lack of support from local elected officials and the school system.

“There’s nothing in the schools that draws young people into our industry,” he said.

Farris asked if anyone else in the room was “freaking out” at the prospect of competing for skilled workers against companies like Toyota, which is building a plant in northern Randolph County to make batteries for electric vehicles, and Boom Supersonic, which plans to build a factory at Piedmont Triad International Airport to build supersonic passenger jets.

Most in the room raised their hands.

Joyce Ryce of GuilfordWorks, who organized the discussion, said she’s seen the types of modern, comfortable, high-tech workspaces that the industry now has, and she thinks a lot could be done by better publicizing current work and what’s going on. payment environment, especially targeting young people with the message.

Stuart Gans of Classical Elements and M2C Studio said it will be important to emphasize the creative and design-oriented elements of the works.

“That’s what High Point is all about,” he said.

Ryce said GuilfordWorks will also involve Guilford County Schools’ career and technical education program in the discussions.

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