Attract-Manufacturing-Talent

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By: Felecia Brasfield

The manufacturing industry plays a vital role in the economy, but there’s a shortage of these skilled workers looking for jobs. According to a recent study conducted by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, 22% of manufacturing workers could be retiring over the next decade. This means hiring managers and HR professionals need to identify the best way to attract manufacturing talent.

The study, Creating Pathways for Tomorrow’s Workforce Today, was conducted to highlight the skilled worker shortage and suggest ways to get back on track. However, if the current shortage continues on this trajectory, the industry will fall short of two million workers.  

Why The Shortage? 

Especially in the US, manufacturing companies find it more challenging to fill these middle-skill positions. These jobs usually require advanced training in specific areas not typically found at 4-year colleges. To attract manufacturing talent and mitigate a potential shortage of over 3.4 million workers, it’s important to understand the reasons behind the shortage.

From a broad perspective, baby boomers are retiring, and those who fall within the millennial group are showing no interest in these jobs. The skilled Gen X workers are arriving at retirement age, and the young adults are not actively seeking blue-collar jobs. There is a lack of interest in skilled labor jobs, with millennials opting for office-related positions in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields. 

Fifty-nine percent of millennials prioritize applying to jobs that offer chances to grow and learn as professionals and individuals, according to Gallup

The reasons behind the shortage look different from the worker’s perspective. Among them were lackluster training programs, no opportunities for career advancement, and a lack of transition within companies. One of the best benchmarks of organizational success is its ability to have workers progress in their current roles to take on more responsibility. These employees seek jobs within the manufacturing industry that have career advancement paths identified. Lack of opportunities for career development coupled with inadequate training lead to skilled workers experiencing job dissatisfaction.

The study identified that it is 1.4 times harder to come across these skilled blue-collar workers than three years ago when the study was conducted in 2018. These positions require job candidates to have previous technical training, licenses, and specialty certifications, and some require prior hands-on experience. The study mentioned it could take anywhere from eight weeks to 12 months to finish the licensing and certification programs.

How To Attract & Retain Skilled Workers 

Attracting job seekers to these open positions is no easy feat, with millennials avoiding manufacturing jobs because they view them as boring and unsophisticated. Even after blue-collar positions are filled, companies will need to make continuing education and encouragement top priorities. So what are some ways to attract manufacturing talent? 

1. Job Descriptions 

Having accurate and detailed job descriptions is essential in attracting suitable candidates. HR and hiring managers can increase the odds of sourcing and evaluating the right people if time is spent crafting comprehensive job descriptions. Be sure to cover details about the position’s day-to-day tasks, letting potential candidates know if they need experience with any specialized equipment or technologies.

According to a survey by the Manufacturing Institute, it takes an average of 70 days to catch the attention of skilled workers. Tackling additional time for on-the-job training before new workers are ready to tackle their duties without supervision. 

2. Competitive Pay & Innovative Benefits 

Attracting the right candidates means ensuring that salary and benefits packages are competitive. Especially in the manufacturing industry, there is a wide range of salaries, with lower-level employees earning around $25,000 a year. Skilled workers or those with advanced technical training can earn over $140,000 within some companies.

Although not as common, offering workers reimbursement for technical training or higher education could be worked into benefit packages and is a great way to attract manufacturing talent. Allowing these particular benefits sets the stage for a highly skilled and engaged workforce.

3. Increased Training for New Hires 

Companies need to invest the resources necessary to train and educate new hires, especially when there’s a shortage of skilled workers. Manufacturers may consider recruiting workers who lack certifications or the needed technical expertise during applicant shortages. Be sure to look for candidates who have the capability and willingness to learn after taking the job. On-the-job training, such as establishing an internal training program, is a great way to cultivate the skill set of new employees. 


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4. Continued Employee Education 

As older workers retire, the company is likely to experience a loss of knowledge and skills. One option to combat this drop is to set up knowledge transfer programs. By establishing mentorship programs, the company is bridging the knowledge gap between seasoned workers and newer employees. The best outcome is for the company to not lose needed expertise.

Focus on ‘Workplace Safety,’ which is integral to retaining skilled workers. Almost 28% of workplace injuries occur within the first 12-months.” 

5. Targeting Underserved Populations 

Finding innovative ways to engage individuals and groups outside of the typical candidate can maintain a higher number of applicants. It is no surprise that more men hold engineering and leadership roles within manufacturing companies than women. Therefore, HR and hiring managers need to think strategically to determine how to target this underrepresented group. Minority populations, veterans, and former inmates are potential audiences for marketing efforts.

What’s Next?

Carolyn Lee, President of the Manufacturing Institute, recently shared her opinion on the current situation with the National Association of Manufacturers. “Manufacturers are working hard to fill open jobs and connect more Americans with rewarding careers, including through efforts like Creators Wanted, the industry’s largest campaign to build the workforce of tomorrow. As an industry, we are focused on continuing to improve perceptions so that students, parents, educators, and more understand the great opportunities available in modern manufacturing. With new or strengthened initiatives, companies can engage new employees, keep existing employees and bolster their reputations of providing sought-after careers in their communities.” 

The Deloitte & Manufacturing Institute study compiled tons of valuable information about current issues within the manufacturing industry. They also presented suggestions on ways to combat this skilled worker shortage. One of which was building talent ecosystems to attract manufacturing talent. Deloitte explains that “a talent ecosystem is formed when different entities come together in meaningful ways to solve shared challenges and meet shared objectives, in this case, related to the workforce in the industry.” Manufacturing companies, suppliers, apprenticeship programs, and technically trained workers can all be part of the talent team. In a nutshell, these ecosystems create a collaborative network of professionals all focused on the same goal. 

They also recommended identifying ways to bring a positive industry perception to the general public, introducing flexibility for these workers, and standardizing credentialing as avenues to change this worker shortage trajectory. However, these efforts need to be implemented industry-wide to make an impact.  


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