Latrobe's Kennametal strives to stay step ahead

| Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 8:52 p.m.

As chairman, president and CEO of Kennametal Inc., Carlos Cardoso is helping the firm realize its goal of generating at least 40 percent of its annual sales from new products.

The Latrobe-based company makes tools and industrial materials but has invested heavily in research and development. Instead of making products and figuring out how to sell them, the company tracks trends and consults with customers to anticipate what products they will need in three or four years.

That's part of the innovation needed to keep Pennsylvania's manufacturing base strong, said Cardoso, 55, co-chairman of the Governor's Manufacturing Advisory Council.

“Pennsylvania is now producing more products than any time in its history,” he said. “We are making strides in several areas, including workforce development, opening new markets, government partnerships, innovation and access to capital.”

The manufacturing industry, which includes heavy machinery, minerals, pharmaceuticals, plastics, steel and textiles, employs 574,000, or 10 percent of the state's total workforce, he said.

But a shortage of skilled workers poses a problem. Employers, including Kennametal, must often look outside the country to hire engineers, he said.

People perceive other manufacturing jobs as grungy or dirty — a stigma that dogged Pittsburgh for decades. Cardoso said it's vital to teach young people that working in a factory is not necessarily a dead-end job.

Cardoso was born in Angola and immigrated to the United States at 17. He began his career in manufacturing by working as a machinist. Education played a role in his success: He attended Fairfield University in Connecticut on a soccer scholarship.

“It begins with educating parents and guidance counselors of high schoolers that to pursue a college degree or manufacturing career is not necessarily an either-or choice,” he said. “Manufacturing is a path that leads to higher education through employer-paid learning and is a high-paying career field.”

Other countries are outpacing the United States in training skilled technical workers, he said.

“Right now, there are more than 1 million jobs available in the U.S. manufacturing sector despite unemployment just under 8 percent. At Kennametal, we have more than 300 jobs open around the world, more than half of which are in the U.S. and require technical skills.”

Cardoso founded the Young Engineers Program, which gives students experience in manufacturing at Kennametal facilities in Latrobe and Solon, Ohio.

“This program is one of many we have globally to address the technical skills gap in manufacturing,” he said.

Other programs are internships, cooperative work/study plans, apprenticeships, community and technical school partnerships, tuition assistance and veterans hiring initiatives.

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