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Senator Klobuchar Talks Workforce with Felling Trailers & How to Reach Future Workers

In late October, Felling Trailers, Inc.’s Litchfield location was honored to be part of Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s Central Minnesota Manufacturing road trip. While touring Felling’s production facility in Litchfield, Sen. Klobuchar spoke with Felling Trailers’ ownership and management about issues such as healthcare and workforce shortages that the company, like many manufacturers are facing. Co-owner Brenda Jennissen told Klobuchar that between Felling Trailers’ Sauk Centre and Litchfield facilities where it builds custom trailers, it has 275 employees and 20 to 30 openings. “We are a growing company and need a strong workforce to keep pace with the demand for our product,” she said.  “As a business, we have seen a growing trend of employees that have decided to leave the company to simply work closer to home,” said Paul Radjenovich, Vice President of Operations. “That was eye-opening, and we realized we need to home-grow the skills.”

“By partnering with educators we can introduce modern manufacturing to students and expose them to the career opportunities that exist.”
– Brenda Jennissen, Co-owner of Felling Trailers

Connecting to Students to Offer Tours and Training

Like several manufacturers across the nation, Felling looked to build relationships with area high schools and colleges. “By partnering with educators we can introduce modern manufacturing to students and expose them to the career opportunities that exist,” said Jennissen. Felling invites schools to bring students in to tour their facilities to help them get a better understanding of what a career in manufacturing entails. The tours detail the entire trailer building process from start to finish. Most recently, the Sauk Centre seventh grade students toured their facility. “They were amazed. They had no idea what was going on in their own backyard,” said Jennisssen. Felling Trailers, Inc. works with local schools to help get the word out to students of the jobs that manufacturing has to offer. Along with offering tours, Felling also offers a selection of student programs: Careers in the Community provides weld training to high school juniors and seniors, Youth Welding Camp provides basic welding safety and training for elementary to junior high ages, and most recently, Felling offered a Women in Welding course all free of charge. Since starting these classes and getting students involved in manufacturing, many have come to work part-time while in high school and college to continue gaining experience. 

Amy Klobuchar visits Felling Trailers to talk manufacturing and workforce

Pictured Left to Right: Co-owners Bonnie Radjenovich & Brenda Jennissen, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, Paul Radjenovich VP of Operations, Mike Cave Director of Production – Litchfield.

Klobuchar Talks about Strengthening Local Workforces 

During Senator Klobuchar’s visit, she spoke about the measures being taken at the federal level to strengthen local workforces, specifically the Perkins Bill.  “It will put more money into apprenticeships and community college, those kinds of things, that’s the first thing. The second thing is the federal government only has about 10 percent of education funding, but sometimes it can be used not as a hammer, but a carrot, to say ‘OK, if you do these kinds of programs in your schools, then you are going to get a grant or something.’ And I think we should be doing more of that, specifically focused on schools that are doing more with offering technical education, making it easier for schools to pair up with community colleges.”

“I think parents have to see the value of these jobs, how much they pay, the advantages of them.”
– Amy Klobuchar, US Senator

 
“And the third is more a mindset. But it’s just to start saying very clearly as leaders on the federal level, in both parties, there are many paths to success. You don’t need a four-year degree right away. My own sister didn’t graduate from high school, and she went on and worked in manufacturing in Iowa, and she eventually got her GED. And then she got a two-year degree and eventually (a) four-year degree, and she’s an accountant now. I think that whole work experience was very good for her for many reasons. … We have to be very clear. It’s not one size fits all. You can get a college degree while you are working, and you can certainly work on stuff while you’re in high school. I think parents have to see the value of these jobs, how much they pay, the advantages of them. And employers are looking at, ‘OK, what can I do to be flexible with schedules? What can I do to get more women in the workforce in manufacturing?’ It’s no longer the three D’s: dark, dirty and dangerous. It’s pretty light in there (Felling).” said Klobuchar.

Learn more about Careers at Felling Trailers 
Learn more are Felling Trailers’ Green Manufacturing Initiatives 
Learn how you can book a tour with Felling Trailers

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