We all know it’s coming. The skills gap is an unfortunate side effect of the “silver tsunami.” More baby boomers are retiring from manufacturing than new hires are coming in to replace them, and those new hires don’t have the same skills and years of knowledge the baby boomers do. One of the biggest problems in finding replacements for these retirees is acquiring new hires with the right skills. There are many factors that led to this point, and there are several solutions that can help manufacturers get past it. These can be summed up into three main categories: working with outside training programs, reskilling your current employees, and hiring people who have previous experience.
This has gotten a lot of attention in the manufacturing world, for good reason. Once students have gotten their degree, it can be hard to convince them to go into manufacturing afterwards, particularly if their degree doesn’t directly apply to manufacturing. However, if you show them the value of a career in manufacturing when they’re deciding what degree they want, you’ll have a much better shot at getting them to go into manufacturing once they’ve graduated. To help solve this problem, manufacturers have begun working with community colleges for training, offering apprenticeships at their shop, or blending the two.
For example, Grob Systems in Bluffton, Ohio runs an apprenticeship program with the local community college. They had previously been offering a journeyman’s card, but within the last few years, they changed it to an associate’s degree, which the apprentice would not have to pay for. You can read the details of this program in this article that MMS Online wrote. Essentially, Grob Systems looks for students with good grades, aptitude for the work, and good character. Once accepted into the program, apprentices divide their weekdays between classes at the local college and working at Grob Systems. This way the apprentices are able to earn money, while going to school for free, and they will almost certainly have a job after they graduate. It’s a win-win for everyone. Grob Systems gets workers they’ve hand-picked and trained to work in their shop. Hundreds of students who have completed their program have continued to work at the shop afterward.
There are also some shops that work with high school students. These shops will work with the teachers in the school to outline what’s important to teach these kids. The shop teachers want to know so they can help their students get a job or get into a particular degree program after high school. The shop owners want to share this information so they get new hires with prior knowledge on the subject and require less training. If these shops are able, they will donate various machines to the high school shop program to help increase student interest in taking those classes and to make sure students are learning on good machines. There’s a lot of work to do in schools of any level to remove the stereotype that manufacturing is “dirty, dark, and dangerous,” but the rewards for getting to that point are huge. However, not all talent on the shop floor needs to come in from outside. Sometimes, the best option is to add to the skills of employees you already have.
Occasionally, your shop will have an opening for a more advanced position than an entry-level position. However, it can be difficult to find any candidates nearby who have the skills you need. One option is to train employees you already have in these skills and move them into the open role and then to hire for the role they just left. Whether you have an open role at the moment or not, reskilling has many benefits.
If there is a job that is easier to fill than others, it makes sense to try to hire for that job whenever possible and save the more difficult jobs for employees you already have. This way, your hiring process becomes easier and your current employees can benefit as well. Reskilling can keep your employees interested in coming to work. Investing in your employees by reskilling them can make them feel more valuable and more likely to stay at your shop longer. Again this is a win-win for your shop and for your employees. You get to make sure employees moving into more skilled positions have the knowledge they need and already fit into your company culture. Then your employees will see a career with your shop, instead of just a job until something better comes along. However, sometimes hiring someone with more experience is the best option. If this is what your shop chooses to do, there are a few things to know.
Hiring Experienced Employees
It is great to bring in a new hire who already knows how to do the job you need. However, while you are checking their qualifications in the interview, they are also checking yours. Because unemployment is so low, people don’t have to jump for the first job they get, and they can afford to be picky. That means that just as much as you want the right employee, they want to work in the right shop, and you need to show them how great your shop is.
One of the first things you will need to check is if your compensation is competitive. Not just the salary you are offering, but the benefits as well like insurance, PTO, and so on. If possible, you could also look at offering a flexible work schedule, such as the option to work 4 10-hour shifts, instead of having to work 5 8-hour shifts. Ensuring your job offering is competitive can be difficult, but it is important. Even if a candidate loves everything else about the job you are offering, if your benefits don’t fit their needs, they will go somewhere else.
After looking at that, you have to see what your shop looks like to an outsider. Is your training program easy to understand and successful? Is the shop culture welcoming to new and current employees? If your new hires, of any experience level, feel like working at your shop is terrible, they will leave within the first few months. Experienced new hires want to know what is expected of them and what to expect in your shop. They’ve seen several kinds of shop environments and they know what a good shop looks like and the warning signs of a bad shop. If there is anything your shop needs to fix, fixing it will improve the shop culture and work environment for your current employees as well.
It’s a tough job market out there for employers, and manufacturing, in particular, has an estimated two million job gap looming in the future. Now is the time to start your strategy to fill the skills gap. However, sometimes you simply can’t get enough people to run your shop the way it has been running. One final tip is to invest in technology as one of your strategies. A good ERP system can free up time for your employees to do more important things than create reports, or enter numbers into a spreadsheet for the third or fourth time. Find out more about our ERP systems below.