Manufacturing is booming in the United States, and manufacturing companies are working hard to keep ahead of demand. That means keeping facilities well staffed with the most qualified employees. The challenge is finding workers who have the right skill set.
So what’s the problem? Why is it so difficult to fill manufacturing vacancies? Below are a few issues hindering full employment in this industry, as well as some steps companies are taking to find the right applicants.
The numbers are against us
While national employment numbers continue to improve, the number of vacancies in manufacturing is still far below the number of people hoping to fill them. By some estimates, applicants outnumber openings by more than four to one. In some industries, that would be a blessing, but not necessarily in manufacturing (not yet, anyway), where adequate skills are absolutely crucial for good business.
The solution is active recruitment, as opposed to passively waiting for the right application to roll in with the others. Manufacturers can no longer lean on old methods (job postings, both print and online) — instead they should leverage sites such as LinkedIn to help screen applicants and reach the right application pool based on their skill sets. Online forums are also an excellent way to screen for applicants who know what they’re talking about. Manufacturers are now hosting forums, posing questions and taking notes when people respond.
The field is changing quickly
Manufacturing requires a great deal of education and training. Workers have to know the basics, and they have to be trained to adapt with the technology they’re learning. Plenty of workers have years of good experience. The problem is that that experience isn’t always easily adaptable for new technologies. Today’s manufacturers are embracing technologies and techniques that are streamlined, more efficient and produce better products.
Part of the solution to filling the technology gap is to prevent it from getting too big in the first place. Manufacturers are working to retain the reliable skilled employees they have by giving them an opportunity to improve. They are sending them back to school, letting them take targeted courses and providing onsite training as new equipment is brought in.
We’re in the middle of a generational shift
Some workers are unwilling to adapt, and others see the rapid changes in technology as their cue to retire. In fact, the retiring baby boomer generation is opening up countless new jobs.
For some manufacturers, the loss of institutional knowledge and manufacturing know-how leaves a tough hole to fill, but it opens opportunities to recruit bright young workers with skills that go beyond the basics — people who are skilled in mechanics and engineering and are savvy to up-and-coming technology. The solution goes back to recruitment and retention. As hard as you work to find new employees, remember that it’s more time-consuming and expensive to recruit than it is to retain. Manufacturers must find workers who not only understand today’s technology but are aware that this isn’t the end of change; it’s likely only the beginning, and they should be committed to keeping up.