The state of the workforce in the Monadnock Region

  • The Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington began operation in 1819 and is celebrating 200 years in the paper making business this year. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin

  • Franklin Pierce University Executive Director of Career Development Pierre Morton discusses a potential internship with FPU senior Vincent Hall in his office. Hall, a sports and recreation major from New Haven, Connecticut, plans to move away from the area after graduation to pursue a career in sports in a larger market. Below: Monadnock Paper Mills, which has been in business for 200 years, is a specialty operation that requires a certain set of skills. Staff photos by Tim Goodwin

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/13/2019 5:02:18 PM

Members of the business community and education system gathered at Keene State College last Wednesday to address a topic that’s of great importance to the region and the state.

As part of the Regional Issue Series put on by the Greater Keene Chamber of Commerce, the issue of  “Shifting the Workforce Sourcing Paradigm” brought together interested parties to discuss the challenges int today’s employment landscape. With more older workers retiring and fewer students in the pipeline to replace them, what is needed to ensure students stay in New Hampshire and how to develop skills that match the evolving needs.

“It’s a really big topic,” said Phil Suter, president of the Greater Keene Chamber of Commerce, to the assembled crowd.

The panel of hiring professionals, executives and educators each spent a short time describing what they see as the biggest challenges facing both companies and those looking for a job.

Julie Pearson, regional director for Masiello Employment Services in Keene, said that being able to recruit candidates that will match her client’s needs is of the utmost importance.

“The time dedicated to doing that is a real challenge,” Pearson said.

She said it’s difficult to attract employees and “the challenge is how do you retain them once you find them.”

The Regional Issue Series began in 2015 and the goal is to have four to six forums each year. Some upcoming topics include transportation, wages and promotion of the region – all of which are tied to the state of the workforce, Suter said.

Melissa Farmer, manager of corporate recruiting at C&S Wholesale Grocers, said it’s not just about recruiting, but about giving employees an experiential opportunity.

They work closely with Keene State and Franklin Pierce University and Farmer said, “it says something about wanting to stay here beyond those four years.”

It’s about finding the right talent and giving them the opportunity to grow within the company, Farmer said.

Anne Brnger, director of human resources at Cedarcrest Center for Children with Disabilities in Keene, said the goal should be to create a pipeline of healthcare workers that can meet the needs of not only today, but in the future.

“But there are a lot of hurdles, a lot of challenges we need to deal with,” Brnger said. “It’s not one answer, it’s several answers.”

Bill Peterson, vice president of human resources at Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington, attended the forum to get an idea of what various sectors had to say about the issue of workforce.

Peterson sees anywhere from 10 to 20 resumes come across his desk every week. More often than not, he doesn’t have a job opening, but he’s constantly inundated with people interested in working at the 200-year-old Bennington company.

But like many companies and businesses, Peterson’s need for a new employee can change in a moment’s notice. Even when he doesn’t have job openings, Peterson will schedule interviews to make sure he has a list of potential applicants he can call when something does open up.

That is not the case for everyone though.

While Peterson never seems to have an issue with a pool of candidates to choose from, the challenge is getting people with the right set of skills. He’s on the lookout for potential hires that communicate well, can problem solve, show up on time and as simple as it sounds, read a tape measure.

“But first and foremost is maturity and a sense of safety awareness,” Peterson said.

As a specialized manufacturer of paper goods, training is a constant aspect and its always on the job.

“We can’t train fast enough,” Peterson said.

In an effort to attract potential employees in the future, Peterson works with schools like ConVal, going into classes to teach them about the mill, and have an apprentice program through River Valley Community College.

As a human resources professional for 42 years, the last four at Monadnock Paper Mills, Peterson has advice for those looking to land a job – do your homework, make eye contact and listen to what the interviewer is telling you.

Pierre Morton, executive director of career development at Franklin Pierce, has only been at the university for a few months and attended Wednesday’s event because he wanted to have a better idea of what employers and hiring managers were looking for. That way he could relay those messages to students.

“It’s finding out about what what they need and what we can offer,” Morton said. “This is really about relationships.”

Morton heard the term soft skills a number of times, and he believes that starts with a potential employee’s ability to demonstrate strong communication.

Since Franklin Pierce sees a mix of local students, as well as those beyond the six New England states, he said it’s about creating opportunities for students to find meaningful connections with both the area and the people.

“It really is about feeling they belong,” Morton said. “We’ve got to give them a reason to stay here.”

Now it’s about facilitating those connections. And Morton believes that begins with a greater conversation that brings businesses together to clearly define what the need.

For more information on the Regional Issue Series put on by the Greater Keene Chamber of Commerce, visit www.keenechamber.com.


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