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5 tips for hiring manufacturing workers

5 tips for hiring manufacturing workers

By: Kate Ashford, Monster contributor

As an industry, manufacturing continues to thrive. Unfortunately, finding skilled workers to fill the gaps in this booming field is becoming harder and harder.

Fully 89% of manufacturing executives agree there’s a talent shortage in the industry, according to a study by Deloitte LLP and The Manufacturing Institute. And there’s a skills gap that could leave 2.4 million positions unfilled between 2019 and 2028.

“What we’re seeing is that everyone in the manufacturing sectors is having the same problems that most employers are having—hiring and retaining workers,” says Adam Roston, CEO of employment agency BlueCrew, which provides on-demand staffing for hourly wage jobs. “It’s really hard, and it’s getting harder in a tough unemployment environment.”

It’s a daunting task, but it’s not impossible. Try these strategies to get good labor in the door:

Provide career growth

People may not think about upward mobility when it comes to manufacturing, but that’s short-sighted. If you can provide opportunities for workers to enhance their skills set or advance up the job ladder, you’ll attract more people.

This could be as simple as offering forklift training, which is something BlueCrew does. “You can get a few dollars extra an hour if you’re trained to drive a forklift,” Roston says. “That’s really material.”

It could also be as straightforward as promoting from within, as one of BlueCrew’s customers does.

“A number of our employees have gone on to management positions there, and that dynamic is super compelling,” Roston says.

“Whether it’s on the first day or three weeks later when they’re trying to decide whether they want to stay at the company or not, to see that their manager or their manager’s manager was in their position a year ago—that environment creates a culture of opportunity.”

It also means that the managers better relate to the entry level workers, Roston points out. “So it creates a really good dynamic for everyone involved.”

Mobilize your workforce

Do you offer a great place to work? Good benefits? Good people? Allow your (presumably satisfied) employees to spread the word for you. Offer incentives to employees who refer someone that you eventually hire.

“If we make our company a great place to work, people tell their friends and their friends tend to have similar skills and interests in work, so that really drives recruitment,” Roston says, “And of course, people stay longer if they enjoy who they work with, so referrals are also really good for retention.”

At Automation Tool & Die in Medina, OH, they made a set of business cards with instructions for how to apply for a job with the organization.

“If any of our employees were out in the community, they were empowered to pass out that recruitment job,” says Jennifer Compton, human resources manager at the company. “If they got their oil changed and that person exhibited awesome skills, they felt like they could all be recruiters on our behalf.”

Hire for core characteristics

With a talent and skills shortage like the one happening today, you may need to hire people for their work ethic and good attitude—and then train them to do the work.

“People aren’t out there just looking [for a job] that are going to fit our technical criteria,” Compton says. “But if we find that solid employee who’s a good cultural fit, it’s easier to train on technical skills than to train on those core qualities.”

Partner up with other companies

Automation Tool & Die is one of several small employers in that area, and the companies decided to create a group—the Medina County Manufacturers Partnership. They formed a 501(c)3 and have focused on advancing themselves as a collaborative.

For instance, they’re working with local community colleges to create a curriculum that will produce more workers with the skills they’ll need to go into manufacturing.

The group looked at similarities in the core curriculum of several different kinds of manufacturing training and found a lot of overlap.

“We were able to help them rethink their curriculum a little bit, so it would be more applicable across more in-demand jobs,” Compton says.

The partnership shares referrals. “Instead of being something where we were poaching employees from each other,” Compton says, “if I get an applicant who looks good but who isn’t the right fit here, I can pass them on.”

They also created a summer camp for graduating high schoolers that allows them to spend a little time at each of their facilities so they can get a better idea of the types of careers available.

“We all know how expensive it is to make a bad hire, so we feel like putting in the resources up front and making sure the fit is there is a unique way for us to get success,” Compton says. “The partnership has really been something that has been a big catalyst for a lot of unique hiring practices here.”

Invite the public in

Though it’s a longer-range plan, part of the field’s problem is that many people today may be hard pressed to describe what a manufacturing job would involve. This keeps people from thinking about the field as an option.

“People do still have kind of a perception of what they assume manufacturing is like,” Compton says.

As such, Automation Tool & Die hosts tours for various parts of the community, from adult tours every other month to a third-grade class tour. “We’re making sure we’re making impressions for STEM careers early,” Compton says.

“They come in and see that this is where the cutting-edge technology is developed, and there are a lot of different careers they’ve never heard of that are available,” Compton says. “We think letting people inside of our doors is really vital to them.”

Harold Beck & Sons, an actuator manufacturer in Pennsylvania, does something similar, getting involved in the state’s “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing”program. “We are always looking for new and imaginative ways to promote careers in manufacturing, even down to the middle school level,” says Scott Kempf, marketing and application engineer manager at the company.

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