Attract Millennials with a Manufacturing Day event

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Monika Soos, co-owner of Sofo Kitchens Ltd. with her husband Radu Soos, has long been concerned with finding good qualified employees for their custom kitchen cabinet shop in Port Coquitlam, BC, near Vancouver.

“As any store owner knows, one of the hardest things is finding skilled and skilled workers,” said Monika. “And with the aging baby boomers, Generation X is not in a position to fill the void left behind. The only hope is to attract Millennials.

But it’s not easy. She saw a survey by Parsable that showed that in four years, Millennials will make up 75% of the total global workforce, but they showed the lowest likelihood of choosing manufacturing as their first career choice. The report also noted that this digital savvy generation expects to receive technology to help them do their jobs and be more productive, and frankly, most manufacturers are falling short of their expectations, according to the report.

About 20 students and two teachers from Westview High School in Maple Ridge, BC attended the Manufacturing Day event on October 29 at Sofo Kitchens in nearby Port Coquitlam.

Monika, who sits on the Board of Directors of the Cabinetmakers Association, read about Manufacturing Day activities in an article in CMA PROfiles magazine in 2019. The idea was to organize public events related to manufacturing specially intended for students on the first Friday of October.

“We wanted to expose these young people to the woodworking industry and see firsthand that it is not necessarily an old-fashioned craftsmanship but also that there are some cool woodworking machines that are digitally controlled, that it’s fun and that it can actually make a future and money in this business, ”said Monika.

Full-Day Sofo Kitchen Making Tour
Students learned that modern woodworking includes high tech equipment like this CNC router.

Sofo Kitchens organized its first Manufacturing Day event in October 2019 and it was a success with the participation of 25 students. One of the students actually returned to work for Sofo in the summer of 2020, Monika said.

Unfortunately, due to COVID, they had to skip a year, but they were determined to bring the event back in full force in 2021. After securing blessings from the local health authority as well as Worksafe BC, the event took held on October 29 with 20 students and two teachers from Westview High School in Maple Ridge. There was even a representative from SKILLS READY – an initiative of the Construction Foundation of BC.

Sofo kitchens manufacture day spray booths
Against stereotypes that manufacturing is dirty and rudimentary, students saw modern, clean spray booths in operation at Sofo Kitchens.

“Students in our local high school carpentry workshop program got to see how a project goes from concept of design to finished product,” said Monika. “Some of them seemed surprised by all the automation.”

The project involved chairs that could easily be assembled from flat pieces cut from engineered wood panels. At the end, there was a competition: they had to assemble a chair without instructions. The chairs had been cut right in front of them on the CNC router from plywood donated by Hardwoods Inc.

Sofo kitchens manufacture day chair parts
The students saw chair parts cut on a CNC machine.

“It was a fun experience and 8 of the 20 winners received gift cards,” said Monika.

Then the students were all able to sit in their own chairs and enjoy their lunch, drinks and cookies (donated by Blum).

Sofo kitchens manufacture day assembly chairs
Without instructions, the students had to figure out how to put the stool-style chairs together, competing with each other to put the chairs together.

“The lunch break was a great opportunity for the students to ask a lot of questions of the workshop employees,” said Monika. “Three students seemed interested in furthering their education in the woodworking field and expressed interest in joining the Red Seal carpentry program. The Red Seal program is a program that sets common standards for assessing the skills of tradespeople across Canada.

Manufacturing day of Sofo Monika kitchens
Monika Soos, co-owner of Sofo Kitchens, presented gift cards to the eight chair assembly competition winners.

“The field visit was a success,” said Monika. “The students learned a lot, had fun and the team members were able to show off their skills and knowledge. “

Sofo Kitchens hopes to be able to organize this event every year. For more information on Sofo kitchens, visit sofokitchens.com.


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