This sector could have a half million job openings and opportunities for older workers


Although the coronavirus continues to rattle global markets and industries, some analysts expect to see greater demand for advanced manufacturing talent in the U.S. as the pandemic diminishes. That could create opportunities for older men and women, including white-collar professionals struggling to find jobs.

Before COVID-19, there were 500,000 manufacturing jobs open in the U.S., according to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). “We’re going to have a need very quickly to ramp up on hiring in those facilities that may have been shut down during the crisis or that need to expand operations,” said NAM president and CEO Jay Timmons in a recent press conference.


“The fact that one can get a certificate in about nine months and totally re-career into a nearly guaranteed job is an incredible opportunity for an older worker.”


— Nora Duncan, Connecticut state director of AARP

As manufacturers frantically try to keep up again with demand for essentials and lifesaving PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for health care workers as cases rise across the country, their innovation and high-tech problem-solving could help dispel misconceptions that all manufacturing jobs are dirty and physically demanding, said Sara Tracey, project manager of workforce services for the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association in Akron, Ohio.

Manufacturing jobs and what they pay

Entry-level manufacturing jobs in industries such as aerospace, technology and defense include CNC operators, set-up technicians and programmers, as well as inspectors, higher-end assembly technicians and quality assurance.

The pay typically ranges between $35,000 and $65,000, including overtime and benefits, said Richard DuPont, director of community and campus relations for the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport, Conn. More experienced professionals can earn upward of $95,000.

80% of older Americans can’t afford to retire – COVID-19 isn’t helping

In Ohio, manufacturers have been training and moving some workers into higher positions so the companies can hire and train new candidates for vacated ones, Tracey noted. Resources such as the Making Ohio website let people explore careers in manufacturing, including robotics, automation and 3-D printing.

Industrial maintenance is an important career pathway these days, as well, Tracey said. This sector is expecting more retirements in the near future, which will create jobs from “traditional machine mechanics to troubleshooting state-of-the-art electronic or robotic processes,” Tracey noted.

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Connecticut, among other states, now offers training programs with community colleges, state manufacturers and other organizations.

From banking to precision tools

This kind of training helped Allison Clemens-Roberts, who is over 50, find work after losing her clerical job in the pensions department of a Connecticut bank in 2017. A severance package gave her time to look for work, but she couldn’t find even temporary employment. She blames age discrimination by white-collar employers.

“There’s no way to hide how old you are. They can ask when you graduated from school,” Clemens-Roberts said.

But while she was out of work, Clemens-Roberts received a postcard from AARP offering a 25% tuition scholarship on advanced manufacturing programs at Goodwin University, a career-focused school in East Hartford, Conn.

She wasn’t interested until her husband Frank saw a TV commercial touting the benefits of Goodwin’s manufacturing and other programs.

“He said, ‘Why don’t you think about changing careers?’” Clemens-Roberts recalled.

So, with several months left on her severance, she enrolled in a full-time, six-month CNC (Computer Numerical Control) Machining, Metrology and Manufacturing Technology certification program. It would prepare her for a job working with automated machine tools which requires mathematical skills, attention to detail and critical thinking.

SectorWatch: 80% of older Americans can’t afford to retire – COVID-19 isn’t helping

Scholarships cut Clemens-Roberts’ tuition bill from $7,000 to $3,200. After a two-month paid internship at TOMZ, a manufacturer of precision components for major medical devices in Berlin, Conn., she was hired in April 2019. Six months later, TOMZ reimbursed Clemens-Roberts $1,500 for her education tab.

Clemens-Roberts said her family is now in a better financial position than when she was working in a bank, living paycheck-to-paycheck. Considered an essential worker, she has kept her full-time job through the pandemic, except for three days in March.

“I never thought I would go to college and participate in a graduation — in cap and gown,” Clemens-Roberts said. “That was a big surprise. And [actor] Danny Glover was the speaker. A bucket-list experience.”

There’s “obviously age discrimination, among other things, at play” for job seekers over 50, said Nora Duncan, Connecticut state director of AARP. “The fact that one can get a certificate in about nine months and totally re-career into a nearly guaranteed job is an incredible opportunity for an older worker.”

While AARP helped Clemens-Roberts pay for the tuition initially, the internship helped her get hired as a machine operator.

Older and younger manufacturing workers helping each other

The search for skilled manufacturing labor across the country is creating opportunities for workers of all ages, said DuPont. And older and younger generations working together are assisting each other.

The older students help younger classmates with life skills, while younger students can help with technology,” said DuPont. “Together, they make excellent teams.”

Don’t miss: How will the robots see you through the pandemic?

Just ask Fernando Vega, 62, who is now a quality inspector at Forrest Machine, in Berlin, Conn. It makes precision-machined parts and other components for the aerospace and commercial industries. In the 1990s, he was a quality inspector before recessions and outsourcing forced him to consider other careers.

He tried working for a nonprofit and though Vega found the work rewarding, it wasn’t financially sustainable.

So, Vega went back to school in spring 2018 to study advanced manufacturing at Goodwin.

“I was in a class of 18, and at first everyone kept to themselves. But when it came time to read blueprints, there was some panic and I said, ‘Don’t panic, I’ll show you.’ The [younger] students helped me with trigonometry, and then we started to work together.”

Vega has worked at his manufacturing job throughout the pandemic. At one point, he was putting in 50 hours a week, but that was reduced to 40 hours plus overtime.

Vega recalled promising his mother that he would go to college. “But that was a long time ago,” he said. His mother never got to see him graduate but Vega feels he’s fulfilled his promise — not only to her, but also to himself. “I love my job,” he said.



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As Japan weighs missile-defence options, Raytheon lobbies for Lockheed’s $300 million radar deal By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Intercept flight test of a land-based Aegis Ballistic Missile in Kauai, Hawaii

By Tim Kelly and Yoshifumi Takemoto

TOKYO (Reuters) – U.S. defence company Raytheon (N:) is lobbying Japanese lawmakers to replace Lockheed Martin Corp (N:) as the supplier of powerful radars as Tokyo reconsiders plans for two Aegis Ashore missile defence sites, three sources said.

“It’s game on,” said one of the sources, who has direct knowledge of Raytheon’s lobbying campaign. Raytheon’s pitch includes a proposal to put its SPY-6 radar on refitted destroyers, as the U.S. Navy plans to do. The company says that would save money and time as Japan tackles new missile threats, drones and stealth aircraft.

Lockheed Martin has a contract with Japan to build its $300 million SPY-7 radars at the two cancelled Aegis Ashore sites, but says other sites or ships are possible.

But critics say dedicating ships to missile defence pulls them away from other duties, and new destroyers can cost hundreds of millions of dollars. And Japan could face financial penalties if it pulled out of its contract with Lockheed Martin.

“We are looking at the various options available to us,” a defence ministry spokesman said.

A key battle for the two companies will be winning the support of former defence ministers and deputy ministers who as early as next week will make recommendations to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

That group, led by former defence minister Itsunori Onodera, formed in June after current defence chief Taro Kono suspended the Aegis Ashore plan. It has weighed in on missile defence and discussed proposals that Japan acquire strike weapons for that mission, Japanese officials have said.

The group of lawmakers will release their recommendations on Friday after they present them for approval to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s defence policy committee, Onodera told reporters after the group met on Thursday.

Japan under Abe has beefed up its military with stealth fighters designed to fly off carriers, longer-range missiles, new amphibious units and stronger air defences meant to deter threats from neighbours, including North Korea and China.

Kono said he ordered the Aegis sites relocated because rocket boosters that accelerate interceptor missiles into space could fall on residents. But concern over mounting costs was the main reason for that decision, according to the three sources.

China is rapidly expanding and improving its ballistic missile arsenal, and in 2017 North Korea tested a missile that flew over the Japanese island of Hokkaido.

With around three times the range of radars currently used by Japan, both SPY-6 and SPY-7 would greatly enhance Japan’s ability to detect multiple attacks.

One option for Japan that would avoid any political fallout would be to buy both radars, using SPY-6 on Aegis ships and deploying Lockheed’s SPY-7 as an early warning radar, one of the sources said.

CHOICE

Onodera’s backing would make that change more likely because he approved the Lockheed Aegis radar acquisition two years ago. At the time he was unaware that testing in Hawaii could add at least $500 million to Aegis Ashore’s $4 billion budget, separate sources told Reuters last year.

In an interview in the Asahi newspaper on Thursday, Onodera said the “ideal option” for Japan would be to find a safe ground-based location. He also noted that building Aegis ships would cost both money and manpower.

Onodera’s office declined an interview request, but one source familiar with his position on the radars described him as “flexible.”

Masahisa Sato, a former deputy defence minister who also served as a deputy minister of foreign affairs, said Japan’s choice is between SPY-7 at new sites, with the missile launchers deployed elsewhere, or building Aegis ships equipped with SPY-6.

“I am recommending an increase in Aegis ships,” he said. “SPY-7 is under development and there is a question about how it would perform in a new configuration,” Sato added.

Lockheed Martin said its system could be adapted to ships, and disputed questions about performance.

“SPY-7 radar is the most advanced radar in the world today and we believe it is the best solution for Japan’s defence needs,” the company said in an e-mail.

For its part, Raytheon said the SPY-6 will be deployed on 50 U.S. Navy ships, calling it the “most advanced radar technology in production today.”





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Kodak CEO’s fortune swells $79 million as stocks rally on U.S. government loan By Reuters


© Reuters. A worker cleans a Kodak booth at the Las Vegas Convention Center in preparation for 2019 CES in Las Vegas

By Jessica DiNapoli

(Reuters) – Eastman Kodak Co (N:) CEO Jim Continenza added $79 million to his net worth on Wednesday when his options in the imaging company turned from worthless to lucrative thanks to a U.S. government loan for a pharmaceutical ingredients supply deal that super-charged the value of his shares.

Kodak’s stock increased 1,167% in value in two days, after the administration of President Donald Trump agreed to provide a $765 million loan for the company to produce pharmaceutical ingredients to help fight the coronavirus pandemic. Trump announced the deal at a news conference on Tuesday evening.

Continenza’s stock options, granted to him when he became Kodak’s CEO and executive chairman in 2019, had no value on Monday, but were worth $59 million on Wednesday following the rally in the stock, according to an analysis by compensation consultant Farient Advisors. Continenza also owned 650,000 Kodak shares as of June 23, which went up in value on the news by $20 million.

Kodak did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Before news of the deal, Kodak, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2013, was only worth a little over $100 million. It ended trading on Wednesday with a market capitalization of $1.5 billion.

While Kodak’s rally enriched all its shareholders, more than half the company is owned by a few key insiders, including board directors Philippe Katz and George Karfunkel. They booked the majority of the gains in the company’s rise in market value.

Rochester, New York-based Kodak, founded in 1888, is best known for its cameras, which went out of favor with consumers as they turned to smart phones to take pictures. Kodak was also known for its film and film processing, businesses that dried up with the growth of digital photography.

This was not the first example of a U.S. government contract quickly enriching corporate executives. Stock options awarded to executives at U.S. vaccine maker Novavax Inc (O:) swelled in value after a $1.6 billion grant from the federal government last month.

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Care Bears boost Florida toy importer, but he needs $10 million right away By Reuters


© Reuters. Basic Fun CEO Jay Foreman poses with the company’s toys

By Rajesh Kumar Singh

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Florida’s Basic Fun has seen a sharp pickup in business since coronavirus shutdowns started lifting in May, but the toy importer needs more cash to buy goods for the Christmas shopping season.

Overall sales for the year may be down just 10% from 2019’s $150 million, Chief Executive Jay Foreman predicts, half his May estimate https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa-smallbusiness/a-florida-toy-importer-braces-for-retail-upheaval-idUSKBN23217T and a remarkable improvement from April, when he saw a 30% decline for the year.

That’s because the toy importer’s sales to big retailers such as Walmart Inc (N:), Target Corp (N:) and Amazon.com Inc (O:) are up over 20% year-on-year. Basic Fun is one of millions of U.S. small businesses facing an uncertain future during the coronavirus pandemic. Reuters is tracking the progress of several of these companies in months to come.

Toys are part of the “stay at home culture,” Foreman said. In particular, Care Bears, a retro product line of cuddly collectibles first popular in the 1980s, are “selling like crazy,” he said, and could mean a strong holiday season.

“In a crisis like this, it is a perfect product to hit the market,” he said.

There is one problem, though – Basic Fun needs $10 million, immediately, to order more bears and other products for the holidays from manufacturers.

Normally, Foreman would turn to banks, but his revolving credit facilities are based on trailing and projected earnings, and he can’t make solid projections. Meanwhile, about 20% of customers, like amusement parks, are still closed, and some customers are late paying Basic Fun.

The business uncertainty is making it difficult to decide how and when to bring back the 22 workers, who were furloughed in April.

A $2.4 million federal Payroll Protection Program loan helped Foreman pay salaries and rent, but did little to address his liquidity problem.

He was banking on the U.S. Federal Reserve’s mid-sized business lending program to tide over the company. But top banks are shunning the program, and the banks that are involved are mostly serving existing customers, Foreman said.

He is negotiating with vendors for extended payment terms and has asked banks for an asset-backed loan instead.

STATE FAIRS SHUTTERED

Even if he does get the capital, Foreman’s next concern is that his cash could be locked up in unshipped or unsold inventory if continued spread of the coronavirus in the United States results in fresh lockdowns.

“I probably spend 20% of my day thinking about COVID-19,” Foreman said, and another percentage of the day on finance related issues.

At least 32 states have reported record increases in cases in July and 16 states have reported a record increase in deaths during the month, according to a Reuters tally https://www.reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-usa-idCNL2N2ET0NB.

Meanwhile, Texas and California are among the states that have reimposed some restrictions, and canceled events. The State Fair of Texas, the country’s largest, normally draws over two million visitors and sells Basic Fun merchandise. It has been postponed https://bigtex.com/about-us/faq until 2021.

State fairs, carnivals and amusement parks normally account for one-fifth of Basic Fun’s sales.

Basic Fun needs more hands to manage the current orders, and to work on the product lines for next year. Any addition to the headcount, however, would inflate the salary bill and increase its capital needs.

“Everybody is concerned what happens if there is another lockdown in the fourth quarter,” Foreman said. “That is a big unknown.”





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Tesla plans $780 million bond deal pegged to vehicle leases—its first such offering during the pandemic


Telsa Inc., after reporting a surprise second-quarter profit, plans to raise $779.53 million this week in the asset-backed bond market.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based electric-vehicle maker is offering eight classes of bonds to investors that mature in 2.7-years or less and carry mostly top AAA ratings from Moody’s Investors Service.

It marks the company’s first such debt deal of the year, after raising funds in a similar manner once last year and twice in 2018, according to Moody’s data.

But it also will be Tesla’s
TSLA,
+8.65%

first asset-backed bond sale during the global pandemic, which has Americans in the throes of a deep economic recession brought on by social-distancing restrictions and other orders designed to limit the spread of the contagion.

Leases on Tesla’s Model S sedans and Model X SUVs make up half of the collateral for the bond deal, with those on comparatively less expensive Model 3 sedans comprising roughly the remainder, according to Moody’s.

During the last major crisis, U.S. consumers surprised lenders by prioritizing their auto payments above their home mortgages, which resulted in few credit issues on bonds backed by vehicle leases during that cycle, but instead a wave of home foreclosures. That fact may help to bolster demand for Tesla’s debt.

Meanwhile, Tesla’s assets have been coveted amid the pandemic that has rocked most other industries.

Last week, Tesla surprised investors by reporting earnings of $104 million, or 50 cents a share, in the second quarter, contrasting with a loss of $408 million, or $2.31 a share, in the year-ago quarter.

Tesla’s shares soared 8.7% on Monday, pushing the stock up 268% on the year, as highflying technology stocks led major U.S. equity benchmarks higher, including the Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
+0.43%
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even as policy makers in Washington wrangled over the next round of pandemic aid, and as infections derived from the novel strain of coronavirus gather steam.

Related: Here are 5 reasons why the pandemic hasn’t crashed the U.S. housing market

In terms of pricing, the biggest AAA-rated, 1.1-year portion of the Tesla bond deal is being pitched to investors at a spread of about 50 to 55 basis points over a risk-free benchmark, according to an investor tracking the offering.

Pricing can change, depending on demand for the bonds, but current levels would indicate a significant premium to the roughly 40-basis-point spread on generic 3-year prime auto lease bonds last week, according to BofA Global data.

Spreads are the level of compensation investors earn on bonds over a risk-free benchmark like U.S. Treasurys
TMUBMUSD10Y,
0.620%
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with wider spreads often pointing to a higher risk of default.

Tesla didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Moody’s said the economic shock of the “rapid spread” of the coronavirus pandemic and related government shutdowns were considered in its analysts of Tesla’s new bond sale, which comes with bigger credit cushions to help protect the bonds from losses than prior ones.

However, Moody’s also said that the gradual economic recovery it expects to see in the year’s second half “depends on whether governments can reopen their economies while also safeguarding public health and avoiding a further surge in infections.”

Dr. Deborah Birx, lead coordinator of the White House Task Force set up to oversee the pandemic response, on Monday urged Kentucky and other states battling surging infections to reimpose shutdowns of bars and limit indoor gatherings.



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