What Workforce Development Means to Local Economies and the Environment
Meta Fab knows the charge to “bring back manufacturing” is easier said than done. The biggest challenge facing US manufacturers is the lack of a skilled workforce, which we’ve seen in the context of COVID-19, where manufacturers lacked the capacity to meet the vital demand for supplies such as ventilators, N95 masks, and other PPE items.
Sixty years ago, tech was a budding industry, and manufacturing jobs were highly coveted in the US. Foreign investments and outsourcing had not yet threatened manufacturing jobs on a large scale, nor were service-based industries offering such lucrative salaries for programmers and computer scientists. YouTube was not a thing, and influencers did not exist.
While the role of manufacturing diminished in the US economy over the past 40 years, when it does “come back,” one thing is sure, it will not look like it did in the 1950s & 1960s. Modernized manufacturing will involve far more high tech advancements. Instead, cleaner, advanced technologies, robots, and other CNC machines will be a big part of the return. The responsibility to train workers on how to program, operate, and maintain these machines rests with employers.
Meta Fab reflects on the success and failures of the past 18 years under the leadership of president and owner, Tim Varela, along with what has kept the company competitive in a rapidly changing industry. “It is an honor, and we are humbled by being named a 2020 Portland Business Journal Manufacturer of the Year,” Varela says. He adds, “The success and sustainability belong to the relationships we’ve made along the way, both with customers and our dedicated team.”
For Meta Fab, being family-owned goes well beyond the relationship of father/son. Many of those employed at Meta Fab have worked with Tim for 30+ years. Additionally, Tim has known others since they were children. “It’s a tight group of people we have here,” adds Michelle Sexton, HR Manager and one of the three original employees.
As Meta Fab looks to the future, it will need to continue developing a workforce independently. Eco-awareness remains at the center of sustainability conversations. A viable labor force and a more robust regional supply chain are critical components in sustaining local economies and communities, and by extension, the environment.
Meta Fab has worked with manufacturing extension programs to create career pathways and on-the-job training models that help lay out the road ahead for new hires. Tony Varela, the oldest of Tim’s three sons, taps into his architecture design background to instill that maker-craft mentality back to manufacturing. “We tell our customers’ stories through the products we build for them to show our team that we are building more than widgets. We are building exciting products that solve interesting problems,” he shares.
With an engaged and skilled workforce, regional supply chains can thrive, which translates to significant gains for the local economy and the environment.
Meta Fab has provided quality sheet metal and CNC machining fabrication services to the Pacific Northwest since 1983.