Breaking Through to the Next Generation

Students Learning Robotics

They say, “You don’t know what you don’t know,” and we think that phrase sums up the massive manufacturing generational gap we’re experiencing. Without an introduction to the incredible career paths that exist within this industry, many kids grow up without manufacturing on their radar. We want to help you change that.

Did you know the median wage of Hudson Valley Region STEM occupations is 70% higher than the median annual wage for all workers in the region? Beyond competitive compensation, we know the growth projection is enormous. In New York State, between 2010 and 2015, employment in core STEM job titles grew by 10.5% and over the same time period, the nation’s core STEM job count grew by 11.3%. But how do we appeal to this generation? To better engage youth, manufacturers should focus on how this field offers a dynamic, meaningful, and purposeful line of work built on creativity and critical thinking.

Imagine sitting in class as a 13 year old kid. Your teacher announces a hands on team challenge you can partake in with your friends to build and program industrial-size robots to play a field game for a prize. Sounds pretty cool, right? There are programs you may not be aware of (even you “don’t know what you don’t know”) that are introducing manufacturing in fun, innovative ways. Robotics programs are popping up all over the country, aiming to build foundational knowledge about STEM careers and break down the negative stigmas that often surround the manufacturing industry. In the last year, nonprofit FIRST generated over 320,000 mentor, coach, judge and volunteer roles, to meet growing student interest. Getting kids excited about a career that touches virtually every corner of life – from environmental improvements, to building better medicines, and simplifying everyday tasks – is the key to the industry’s future.

One noteworthy local initiative is the Rockland BOCES Hudson Valley Pathways in Technology Early College High School known as the Hudson Valley P-TECH program. It’s designed to engage students in grades 9-14 with hands-on, project-based learning. Local businesses are encouraged to get involved to enable Hudson Valley P-TECH to prepare students for the workplace of today and tomorrow. The Business Partnership Program connects students with professionals in their pathway by providing students with work site visits, job shadowing, field experiences and more. Monthly Mentor Lounge events focus on topics to develop professional skills. Business partners also work collaboratively with teachers to design industry challenges in which students solve real-world challenges facing the industry partner. The end result? Creating a more robust and skilled pipeline of a qualified workforce that will benefit our entire region.

Shifting the stigma is the priority. How can we get schools to embrace industry tools like artificial intelligence and virtual reality? By talking to our educators about ways we can help engage scientific minds. Peter Harris, the Director of Learning and Design for the Career Pathways Programs, encourages manufacturing professionals to connect with local middle school educators and offer facility tours or classroom visits to strengthen outreach. You can create a lightbulb moment for a student once they realize a passion like playing video games can be translated into learning an exciting and rewarding advanced technology such as robotics programming or virtual metal cutting. Harris describes a sense of relief, release and pride that overcomes the students who walk into BOCES technical centers. Establishing stimulating alternative pathways to success is the first step to break down traditional education barriers.

To bridge the employment gap we’re headed towards, we must increase awareness and change misperceptions about the industry through exposure to engaging content and hands-on experiences. By offering high school and postsecondary mentorships, you will be helping prepare students for challenging, rewarding and lucrative careers in manufacturing. After all, many of the same kids you reach out to today will become the future of the company you’ve worked so hard to grow. Together, we can change perceptions, one student at a time. Please share this article with colleagues to spread the word, and contact RBT CPA’s dedicated team to have a deeper conversation about youth outreach you can get involved in.

Dealing With Delayed Payments During a Pandemic

Delayed Payment

Remember the good old days when you completed a construction job without a hitch and got paid on time for your work?

Yeah, neither do we. Historically, high upfront costs and razor-thin margins have made it difficult for contractors to pay what they owe to their subcontractors and suppliers before they’ve been paid themselves. The result? Everyone has to wait to get paid until job requirements are met and obligations are fulfilled. The 2020 National Construction Payment Report found 80% of companies surveyed spend a significant portion of their workweek chasing down payments and only 50% of construction businesses say they receive payment within 30 days of invoicing. Today, many contractors are faced with the added stressor of huge payment delays from current clients who claim they can’t pay because of the pandemic. We know, this scenario sounds like the cherry on top of an already problematic year. But don’t panic, there are steps you can take to protect your business before you fall into a messy financial and legal battle.

Contractors should spend extra time reviewing their submissions for payment.

Spend additional time upfront to ensure language is concise, and that the backup your client is requesting is clearly stated. A well-crafted contract will eliminate confusion about payment terms and enforce your payment rights. The contract should specify the scope of the work, payment schedule, and legal repercussions of late payments. Remember: your lien rights are designed to protect you. For over two centuries, the mechanics lien has been empowering materials suppliers, contractors, subcontractors, and other construction stakeholders with the most effective weapon they can wield against delinquent, non-paying clients. You want to get liens filed on anything that’s unpaid or late. A more proactive move is to ensure your lien rights are protected at all times as you get more work.

Consider converting to digital invoicing and payment solutions.

Taking advantage of technology helps streamline the entire process and often means contractors get paid faster. Every second that passes after a job is completed is time where there is a receivable with no cash flow. When customers pay with the click of a mouse instead of waiting a week for the mail and checks to clear, your business is generating cash faster which allows you to focus more energy on growth and leads and less on covering bills and payments.

Increasing your cash cushion as much as possible will set you up for success.

Obtain working capital loans, monitor new opportunities for SBA programs and new stimulus money. Try to get credit terms extended with suppliers and research third parties that offer longer credit terms for suppliers. At RBT, our goal is to help you feel empowered to get what you’ve earned and that means preparing for unpleasant obstacles down the road before they strike.

When you walk on to a construction site, there is an entire community of stakeholders on the job. Every person who touches your business is impacted by COVID-19 in some way, and we know you are in a unique position. You’re tasked with juggling a lot of moving parts and personalities at play with the end goal of getting paid for the hard work your team has completed. While illnesses, quarantines, and local regulations have exacerbated an existing industrywide issue, we hope you can use some of this advice to better prepare yourself for the pitfalls ahead. When you find yourself in a challenging scenario and you’re not sure who to turn to, please know you can call our dedicated professionals for a personalized consultation.