Recruiting and hiring manufacturing workers is more difficult than ever in today’s economic climate. Not only are companies competing with other manufacturers, they’re competing with other industries who are also seeking new employees, from entry-level to those more experienced.
This reality is compounded by the fact that manufacturing jobs are increasingly requiring potential candidates to possess a qualified skillset for many of the unfilled positions.
The skillsets needed can be somewhat offset by existing workers who can share valuable job knowledge and processes with incoming workers.
But the clock is ticking as many older workers will increasingly be retiring over the next several years, making it imperative to tap into their accumulated experience prior to retirement.
Manufacturing for Gen X, Y, and Z
Due to baby boomers retiring from the workforce, the Manufacturing Institute estimates that as many as two million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled by the year 2025.
And unfortunately, many people currently seeking employment, whether to change careers or having lost their job, don’t find manufacturing an attractive employment option.
There is hope. An increasing number of manufacturers are making strides in their efforts to change the perception of the industry to draw more workers of all ages to their ranks.
Millennials, aka Generation Y, represent the largest swath of the U.S. population and are prime targets for recruitment. Generation Z is behind millennials in terms of size and next is the Generation X crowd to consider.
A prevailing misconception about manufacturing is that it involves tedious work, at low pay, in dirty conditions. For the most part, nothing could be further from the truth.
To change this perception essentially requires a rebranding of the industry. Cohesive and consistent messaging must convey that a manufacturing career provides you with:
- Access to state-of-the-art, cutting-edge technology
- A fulfilling and captivating work environment
- Opportunities to learn and grow professionally
- A secure, stable, financial future
With job openings currently at record highs, workers can be more selective in the jobs they consider. They want reasons to believe you are the employer of choice for them.
Education and Training
A survey released in July 2021 by Parsable, a provider of digital tools to connect workers, indicated that 56% of Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2012) have a more favorable view of the manufacturing industry than before the pandemic.
This is largely due to the positive perception of how essential manufacturing was during the pandemic, in particular the importance of front line workers.
Harnessing this momentum will go a long way towards easing the skilled labor shortage.
To help potential younger employees explore the field of manufacturing, providing education about the industry and its career opportunities is critical.
In an article for IndustryWeek, Lawrence Whittle, the CEO of Parsable said, “Part of the reason for younger workers not going into manufacturing is the way we think about education in this country. We tend to think of community college or vocational school as not very exciting. That’s not the case in other countries where vocational training is highly valued.”
Fortunately, that perception is beginning to change.
Look Beyond Millennials
Millennials are generally defined as those individuals born between 1981 and 1996, making the oldest of them cresting the age of 40.
As the largest generation in size, their sheer numbers make them attractive to many manufacturers, as well as businesses in other industries, for recruitment.
While it makes sense that employers seek out millennials given the huge numbers of them, it’s important to remember there’s still a significant pool of workers older than age 40 who can contribute to a manufacturing work environment.
Interestingly enough, many of these post-millennial age workers are seeking employment with the same opportunities and benefits as their younger counterparts.
Today’s employees want to grow as individuals and thrive in teams as part of a larger nurturing culture, according to Ronni Zehavi, CEO of Hibob, an HR and benefits management software firm.
While certainly important to the millennial generation, it’s applicable to many job seekers of all ages.
To combat the skills gap, Jeff Berger, CEO of job search firm Talent, feels companies will have to adjust their hiring strategies where money might not be the biggest incentive for some people.
Industrial-organizational psychology practitioner and workplace expert Amy Cooper Hakim predicts, “killer health insurance, unlimited vacation policies, and work-from-home part of the week perks may outweigh a bulky paycheck in the years to come.”
And according to Parsable CEO Whittle, “Manufacturing is an ideal career in that it provides valuable products to the world and at the end of the day people want to feel that the work they are doing is important and contributes to the benefit of society.
"To be able to do that in a field that can offer a long-term career, with continuing education is the message that we must convey to educators, students, potential employees and society at large.”
Steps to Adapt
To remain competitive in an ever-changing workforce, manufacturers will need to adapt how they operate to encourage candidates to consider them for employment. Steps include:
- Establishing a company culture that reflects values important to today’s workers. This may include being socially and environmentally responsible, team-building outings, flexible work hours, mentoring opportunities, and systematic progress reviews.
- Conveying the use of advanced technology at your manufacturing facility, and using social media as a platform to communicate what differentiates your company from the competition and why manufacturing is a rewarding career choice. Demonstrate through online videos the positive ways that today’s shop floor has changed.
- Creating a work atmosphere that offers a structure for personal growth and advancement. Encourage employees to share ideas and make suggestions that may help the company. Show that you value their contributions and provide frequent feedback and ongoing communication.
- Promoting the importance of continuous education and job training. Let them know you provide learning opportunities in order to further develop their job skills. Don’t be afraid your people will leave if you invest in them. Because what happens if you don’t and they stay?
The manufacturing workforce is more competitive than ever and it looks to be that way for the foreseeable future.
If manufacturers can, collectively, position manufacturing as a career destination with valuable opportunities for personal growth and professional advancement, they will stand a fighting chance of securing their fair share of available workers.
For more information about hiring practices or workforce strategies for your manufacturing business, contact the experts at CONNSTEP.