By Tyler Micik
Although this week was a fairly quiet week in Dover, the State Chamber hosted our annual Spring Manufacturing and Policy Conference on Wednesday, March 16th. The half-day, virtual conference featured keynote remarks from Governor John Carney and NIIMBL's Director Kelvin Lee, two panel discussions, and the chance to network.
The first panel, Where Did All the Workers Go?, addressed the labor shortage here in Delaware and across the country. Scott Malfitano, chair of the Delaware Workforce Development Board moderated a conversation with Nakishia Bailey of Dot Foods; Taryn Dalmasso from Edgewell Personal Care; Dale Cook of Mountaire Farms; and the National Association of Workforce Board's (NAWB) Ron Painter. The discussion highlighted several factors that are impacting the labor market: aging population, automation, adult learning, and the need for funding.
By 2030, all baby boomers will be 65 or older. With low birth rates and immigration, the exchange rate of people entering the workforce is not keeping up with the exit. In addition to the knowledge and skill gaps that manufacturers are experiencing, it is becoming increasingly more difficult for nighttime/weekend shifts to be filled with workers due to the fact that child care isn't offered during those hours. Lacking the skills and experience to have the leverage to choose their hours over more senior employees, low-skill and entry-level workers are often forced to stay home and care for their children instead of working.
Automation was also discussed. Ron Painter referenced a study out of Canada which found that low-skill and high-end positions increased due to automation while middle skill roles and management decreased. He stressed that with this sort of knowledge, manufacturers need to rethink how they onboard and upskill their workforce when the traditional method of “moving up the ranks” is no longer an option with technology replacing those middle level roles. NAWB estimates that estimates it will cost $80 billion to upskill the American workforce to meet global needs and standards.
So, what’s the solution? The panelists stressed that businesses need to lead on identifying alternative funding and training solutions that work for their people. Investing in your own talent is a sure way to grow your workforce.
The second panel, Playbooks for the Future, turned toward “what’s working” and how we can build upon successful workforce programs like Zip Code Wilmington, Delaware Pathways, Intern Delaware, and Elevate Delaware. Michael Fleming, president of the Delaware BioScience Association moderated a conversation with Desa Burton of Zip Code Wilmington; Kelly DeCurtis of Delmarva Power; M. Davis & Son's John Gooden; and Steve Jackson from Aviation High School in New York City.
How can Delawareans build upon successes like these and replicate models that work to address the needs in manufacturing and other industries important to the state? This is a conversation the State Chamber will continue to explore.
The Delaware Manufacturing Association held their quarterly board meeting after the event to talk about the conference, discuss issues manufacturers are facing, and talk about possible solutions.
The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce welcomes its newest team member, Kerri Welcher, who stepped into the role of events manager this week. Kerri will help to advance the organization’s mission of networking and advocacy through planning and managing our calendar of proactive and responsive events.
A Delaware native, Kerri has spent most of her life in the First State. She recently graduated from the University of Delaware with a degree in Hospitality Business Management. Prior to joining the State Chamber, she worked at the Brandywine Zoo helping to plan and manage their events.
Kerri resides in New Castle, DE with her husband and our two "fur babies" who enjoy taking nature walks. In her spare time, Kerri loves to paint and entertain friends and family where she shows off her impressive cooking skills.
Please welcome Kerri to the Delaware State Chamber! Or join us next week at our Networking Breakfast at MySherpa to meet her in person!
By Tyler Micik
As the General Assembly returned to session, so did the public to Legislative Hall. After two years, The State Capitol building reopened its doors so people can attend hearings on session days. Lawmakers and visitors are also no longer required to wear masks or face coverings in the building, although it is strongly recommended where people cannot maintain safe social distancing. Unvaccinated individuals are strongly encouraged to wear masks at all times when interacting with other people.
However, House and Senate committees will meet via Zoom until further notice. But it’s likely they’ll transition to a hybrid format soon, with the House considering having in-person committee meetings starting next week. You can view the Senate’s memo here and House memo here to learn more.
With the flurry of bills before the General Assembly, two of particular note that were heard were SS2 for SB1, or the Healthy Delaware Families Act, and HB 305, which would legalize recreational marijuana.
The Healthy Delaware Families Act proposes to create a statewide paid family and medical leave insurance program. The bill passed the Senate by a 14-7 vote on Tuesday following a two-hour discussion. This latest version of the bill includes a few changes such as the use of PTO, which can be counted towards the total amount of leave; a reduction in the number of weeks an employee can take for parental leave (applies to companies under 25 employees through 2031); and allows for the grandfathering in of private plans in existence at the time of passage that offer comparable or greater benefits through 2030. The bill now heads to the House for consideration. The Delaware State Chamber and Delaware Business Roundtable issued a joint statement on the Healthy Delaware Families Act that can be viewed here.
The recreational marijuana bill was heard in the House on Thursday. The State Chamber advocated for HA 7 to be introduced and placed with the bill and it passed the House by voice vote. The amendment gives businesses the flexibility to keep and maintain their current polices with regards to drugs and alcohol. However, the bill was defeated in the House after receiving a 23-14 vote in favor of the legislation, with 4 lawmakers choosing not to vote. The bill required a three-fifths majority, or 25 votes, because of the new tax it would impose. The bill now remains dead until next year when it can be reintroduced.