Koehn leads manufacturing groupVicky Koehn said experience working with employers will help her in her new role as president of the Red Wing Manufacturers Association.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
As a business service specialist at the Red Wing Workforce Center, Vicky Koehn spends her days connecting with area businesses and working with them to determine their employment needs.
“If we’re not in touch with businesses, we can’t be successful,” Koehn said. “It comes back to ‘We need to know what employers need.’”
Now, Koehn said, her day-to-day job and experience working with employers will help her in her new role as president of the Red Wing Manufacturers Association.
“I like my job,” Koehn said. “This dovetails quite well with that.”
Past President Frank Branscombe approached Koehn about the opportunity last spring, and she officially took over in September.
Koehn said there are three main things she wants to work on with the RWMA this year: raise awareness in the community, connect with educators and provide opportunities for manufacturers to learn from each other.
“We’ve got some of the pieces there,” she said. “We just need to jiggle a few more.”
One of the biggest issues Koehn sees is a lack of understanding in the community about what local manufacturers do. She said many people may recognize a name or brand, but don’t realize what products the business makes or industry it serves.
“What we are going to try this year is to raise awareness in the community,” Koehn said.
To help do that, Koehn is planning a community picnic to coincide with Minnesota Manufacturers Week, Oct. 22-28. The picnic will be 11:30 a.m. Oct. 22 at the St. James Hotel. Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Deputy Commissioner Paul Moe will speak. In addition, local manufacturers will get a chance to interact one-on-one with community members.
Koehn also hopes to work more with local educators to help expand the local manufacturing workforce.
“We’ve got a natural tie-in with Southeast Tech,” she said.
Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical is already a member of the RWMA, Koehn said, and the organizations work together “on a regular basis.” Still, Koehn said she’d like to involve college staff more to determine how they can “respond to (employers’) educational needs.”
In addition, Koehn plans to work with area high schools to find ways to introduce students to manufacturing early.
“We’re hoping that people will look at manufacturing as a career,” she said. “That pipeline of workers is extremely important to us.”
The job duties for many manufacturing careers have changed quite a bit in the last few years, Koehn added, and part of drawing people into the field is educating them about what manufacturing jobs actually entail.
“That skill set has changed dramatically,” Koehn said.
She said she will be reaching out to superintendents to help determine how the association and schools can work together.
Lastly, Koehn is working to find ways for manufacturers to learn from each other and to network. Part of that is incorporating more site tours into the organization’s monthly meetings.
For example, members toured the Prairie Island nuclear plant during their September meeting. Tours allows employees to see how other companies are working and possibly find new ways to streamline their own manufacturing processes, Koehn said.
“People learn stuff from tours,” she said.
In addition, Koehn is looking to grow the organization’s member base. There are about 35 members, she said, but she would like to include more members from surrounding cities including Lake City and Hastings. That will help with networking.
As her year with the RWMA begins, Koehn admits her agenda is plenty full.
“There’s a lot to accomplish,” she said.
Still, she said she’s excited to get started.
To celebrate Minnesota Manufacturer’s Week, the Red Wing Manufacturer’s Association is hosting an appreciation luncheon. Speakers include Department of Employment and Economic Development Deputy Commissioner Paul Moe and Mayor Dennis Egan.
What: RWMA luncheon
When: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Oct. 22
Where: Victorian Room, St. James Hotel
RSVP: Required by Oct. 15. Call 651-388-4719 or email email@example.com