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East County EDC connects job seekers and employers through innovative tours

East County EDC manufacturing tour

East County EDC manufacturing tour Q&A lunch panelA manufacturing tour by any other name may not achieve as much as the ones organized by the East County Economic Development Council (ECEDC).

On May 25, ECEDC led a tour at two host facilities, the FOX Factory — a multinational manufacturer (with a plant in El Cajon) of high-performance shock absorbers and racing suspension products for snowmobiles, mountain bikes, motorcycles, ATVs, UTVs, off-road cars, trucks, and SUVs — and Computer Integrated Machining Inc. (CIM), a locally-owned machine shop that offers CNC machining, wire and sinker EDM, screw machining, mold making, stamping, and other technologies for a variety of industries.

This tour, however, not only introduced participants to the manufacturing facilities; it connected job seekers with employers and helped build a manufacturing community in San Diego’s East County.

Jo Marie Diamond, Jenny Huerta and David Espley of ECEDC worked tirelessly before and after the tour to coordinate logistics such as making sure two very different companies were represented on the tour, collected participants’ résumés to pass on ECEDC member companies, and looping in educators to foster a relationship between them and manufacturers, who often develop their own training programs.

The value in having two very different companies host the tours is in the perspectives they offer. In the case of the tour on May 25, FOX Factory is large (room for hiring), while CIM is a shining example of successful blue-collar entrepreneurship.

After the tour, the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District hosted a boxed lunch, panel and Q&A with tour participants. Panelists included representatives from Mira Costa College, San Diego City College, Fox Factory, CIM, and Quality Controlled Manufacturing, Inc. Job seekers heard about manufacturing training programs, career opportunities in the industry, and relevant certifications and degrees available to them at local educational facilities. 

This model works so well, that they could “work with any priority sector,” said Huerta.

Many workers are aging out of the workforce, many “masters” of their craft, and one way to address the issue is to develop the workforce pipeline, bringing younger people to this career pathway.

In addition to helping create the talent pipeline, another incentive for companies to host tours is the ability to recruit potential employees from tour participants. For instance, a company seeking engineers or welders would let the ECEDC know ahead of time of their needs, and the ECEDC would actively recruit members from those communities to join the tours.

The tour achieved many outcomes, and offered a chance to “rediscover what manufacturing really is,” said Espley. “To show the high-skilled technical line of work coming back to the U.S.” Tour participants get the chance to see robotics and computer programming – not the old stereotype of a dusty factory floor.

The Careers in Manufacturing Tours are made possible through extensive collaboration between ECEDC staff, the Grossmont Union High School District (GUHSD), Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District (GCCCD), San Diego Workforce Partnership, East County Career Center and industry.

In October, ECEDC will convene 40 manufacturers for a resource fair and exhibition for companies and job seekers. If you are interested in helping establish our region as a leading manufacturing center — investing in communities and workforce development for millennials, contact Jenny Huerta at jenny.huerta@eastcountyedc.org.

Photos by Steve Goward.