ebm-papst Fans, Blowers and Technology

ebm-papst: Robot teams and Connecticut’s future workforce

Posted on Tue, Mar 27, 2012

By Bob Sobolewski, President and CEO at ebm-papst USA

Two weeks ago, after CBIA’s Business Day at the Capitol, Don Beckwith posted here about the challenges that Connecticut manufacturers have in attracting new employees. While cost of living and wages have a big impact on our efforts to remain competitive, there’s another piece of the puzzle that’s equally important: helping new generations become adept, capable and confident employees of the future.

Our state’s business community has a responsibility to enhance our children’s education in ways that build their critical thinking and technical skills. We can help them aspire to be team members and leaders, regardless of the professions they choose, by showing them what we do every day and helping them visualize themselves within our companies.

In 1989, ebm-papst Inc. began its journey to support a fledgling organization called FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). Founded by inventor Dean Kaman, FIRST is now an international program that inspires nearly 300,000 young people from kindergarten to 12th grade to get involved with science, engineering, math and technology and helps them develop self-confidence, teamwork and leadership skills. ebm-papst began to supply our air-moving products to FIRST competitions, as well as engineering expertise and manufacturing support to teams. That support continues to this day.

Being involved in FIRST is a labor of love…and belief. Just ask Electrical Engineering Manager Hogan Eng, who devotes nights and weekends to helping Woodbury’s FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Team #2836, Team Beta. Or Operations Manager Bill Aston, who has mentored Farminton’s FRC Team #178, the 2nd Law Enforcers, for nine years. Or everyone in the company who has gone the extra mile to help manufacture parts for these teams’ robots and support their transportation, logistics and community outreach efforts.

Are our efforts working?

Brandeis University recently surveyed young people in FIRST Robotics Competitions around the country and compared them to a group of non-FIRST students with similar backgrounds and academic experiences, including math and science. The survey revealed that FIRST students are:

  • More than three times as likely to major specifically in engineering.
  • Roughly 10 times as likely to have had an apprenticeship, internship, or co-op job in their freshman year.
  • Significantly more likely to expect to achieve a post-graduate degree.
  • More than twice as likely to expect to pursue a career in science and technology.
  • Nearly four times as likely to expect to pursue a career specifically in engineering.
  • More than twice as likely to volunteer in their communities.

Connecticut FIRST’s big event – the FIRST Robotics Competition Northeast Utilities Connecticut Regionals – will take place Friday, March 30 and Saturday, March 31 at the Connecticut Convention Center. This year’s regionals will bring more than 2400 high school students on 64 elite robot teams from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Texas who both compete and cooperate in this year’s game, Rebound Rumble. The event is free and open to the public.

If you’ve already been to Connecticut’s FIRST Regional robotics competition, you know how exciting and inspiring they are. If you haven’t, I invite you to bring your children, your neighbors’ children and their teachers. We’re going to have a blast!

Tags: ebm-papst, Bob Sobolewski, CT, CT Business Day, FIRST Robotics, CBIA

The delicate position of businesses in Connecticut

Posted on Tue, Mar 06, 2012

-by Don Beckwith, senior vice president of finance and administration at ebm-papst

Wednesday, February 29, Accounting Manager Jack Relidzinski and I attended Connecticut Business Day, sponsored by the Connecticut Business Industry Association (CBIA) and the Connecticut Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives.

The event took place in the state Legislative Office Building and featured Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman as keynote speaker, Senate Republican Leader John McKinney (R-Fairfield) and DECD Commissioner Catherine Smith.

Each speaker focused on the importance of education reform, as Governor Malloy prepared to kick off his Education Reform Tour on March 1. Our children are lagging in reading and critical thinking skills. The legislators recognize the importance of fixing this issue, but also recognize it will take many years to do so. Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman assured everyone that the millions of dollars this agenda item will consume are in the new proposed budget, and there will be no new taxes necessary to make it happen (this got a nice laugh from the crowd). But what this achievement gap means is that our workforce is in jeopardy, and finding skilled workers could become a significant challenge in the future. This, coupled with current challenges, puts Connecticut’s companies in a tenuous position.

Right now, manufacturers, in particular, are having a difficult time attracting lower wage employees to Connecticut and retaining them because of the cost of living, among other issues. I suspect other companies are facing the same challenges, because the main comment coming repeatedly from the crowd was, “Stop putting millions of dollars into attracting new businesses to Connecticut and focus on keeping the businesses that are here and have been committed to the state for years.”

The message was clear – Connecticut is currently not a business-friendly state. Each of the speakers acknowledged there is a lot of work to be done. In the meantime, I ask other Connecticut businesses what they are doing to attract and retain employees. Please post any comments below or on our Facebook page!

Tags: ebm-papst, CT, CT Business Day