Survey Finds Recruiting, Training Top Challenges for State Manufacturers

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Connecticut manufacturers will need to fill 13,600 positions by 2018 to meet growing demand according to a new survey released today.

The 2017 Survey of Connecticut Manufacturing Workforce Needs, produced by CBIA and the National Science Foundation Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing, found 99% of manufacturers expect to grow their workforce in the next three years.

However, meeting the demand for skilled workers means addressing a number of challenges.

“This survey is the road map to reinvigorating the mainstay of our state’s economy,” said Brian Flaherty, CBIA Senior Vice President, Public Policy.

“The answers are here—from hiring needs, to the skills they’re looking for, and the barriers to growth they need to clear.”

Manufacturers are hiring for a range of positions, including entry level production workers, engineers, and welders, with 98% looking to fill full-time positions.

The average starting pay for all levels of ranged from $29,000 to $66,000.

The survey also shows that retaining workers is a challenge for many of the state’s manufacturers.

Twenty-seven percent of respondents said some were leaving for better pay and benefits (27%), while 20% said they were losing employees to retirement.

Manufacturers said they are preparing for vacancies by training their current workforce (79%), targeted recruitment plans (72%), developing and expanding apprenticeships (40%), and automation (26%).

What was clear in the survey was the disconnect between the needed skills and available training. In almost every category, manufacturers feel there are not enough training opportunities.

Specifically, they noted employees lack employability, punctuality, and work ethic (74%) and technical skills such as CNC and blueprint reading (71%).

Manufacturers are largely addressing this skills gap through on-the-job training (95%), tuition reimbursement (61%), and classroom education outside of (54%) and during (47%) work hours.

They are also turning to educational institutions for help, including: in-state technical high schools (75%), in-state community college certification programs (67%), in-state community college associate’s program (52%), and state high schools (58%).

“This survey provides tremendous insight into the needs and goals of manufacturing in the state,” said Andrea Comer, CBIA Vice President, Workforce Strategies.

“It highlights the important role our technical high schools and community colleges play in filling the manufacturing talent pipeline, the ongoing need for 21st century skills training, and the value employers place on certification and credentials.”

“The results of the survey will provide educators with critical data that will be used to educate and create the next generation workforce and in the process, contribute to the economic growth of the state and the Northeast,” said Dr. Karen Wosczyna-Birch, Executive Director, Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing, National Science Foundation Center of Excellence.

With hiring projections in the thousands over the next three years, Connecticut must ensure a pipeline of well-qualified workers to meet that demand.

To meet this growing demand, CBIA recommends the following:

  • Further expanding the state’s community college technical training programs
  • The Small Business Express Program must expand  to reach larger manufacturers that are struggling as much as smaller firms to find the next generation of talent
  • Public schools must increase efforts to educate students, guidance counselors, and parents about careers in modern manufacturing
  • While the University of Connecticut’s successful engineering program has grown in popularity, other state and private schools need to work to create and improve engineering programs

The 2017 Survey of Connecticut Manufacturing Workforce Needs was emailed and mailed to manufacturing executives and human resource directors throughout Connecticut in December 2016 and early January 2017.

The survey had 157 respondents for a 5% response rate and 8% margin of error with a 95% confidence level. 

CBIA is Connecticut’s largest business organization, with thousands of member companies, small and large, representing a diverse range of industries from every part of the state. For more information, please email or call Meaghan MacDonald (860.244.1957).


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