Where Will Tomorrow’s Workers Come From?
Gary Snow 03.30.2016
We frequently hear manufacturers lamenting about their struggles to find experienced, qualified staff to man their CNC machine tools or other industrial equipment. They say today’s kids don’t want to get dirty or work hard, they just want to sit in front of a computer and do a desk job after going to a 4-year school. So how do we grow the manufacturing professionals of tomorrow?
Choosing a Path
Quite often today’s youth have their parents push them down the path of a 4-year college degree only to find that the end of the road is high student debt and job prospects that have them underemployed for most of their careers. Some of these youth do not get a say in their path and have gone along to please their parents, and to continue the financial support that’s provided when Mom and Dad are pleased with the child doing as they have wished.
I personally pushed my own two children to pursue a 4-year education but stressed the fact that they needed to choose a career that ultimately makes them happy and allows them to earn an income that will support the lifestyle of their choice. Back to the issue at hand though. How do you find the right people to staff your shop? Here are some ideas that come to mind.
Grow Your Own
Look at the youth you come in contact with in your community. Do they already display a good work ethic? Are they polite and able to communicate in an effective manner? Find out what their interests are and if a career in manufacturing might be of interest to them. Invite them to visit your shop. Show them that the shop of today is high-tech, clean, safe, and provides opportunities that other jobs don’t offer. Setup an in-house apprentice or training program with established goals and milestones, show them how they can grow themselves and their career if they are able to complete the program successfully.
Sitting in Front of a Computer Means Different Things to Different People
Does this youngster like computers? Show them a modern CAD/CAM system and how it simulates what will actually happen on the shop floor. Let them know that they will be able to create and develop with these tools to provide not only a good job for themselves but also an end product that contributes to a greater good or need in the marketplace. Expose those with design interest to Solidworks or another popular 3D modeling software and encourage them to get the student version and learn to use it with proficiency. Encourage them to create something that might be used in the shop.
Gain exposure for your shop by participating in career fairs at the local high schools, community colleges, and universities. Participate in industry forums to discover the best practices for identifying and retaining candidates with potential for a manufacturing career. Focus on schools with strong and active STEM programs. It may require you to travel to another location to find the talent but the end results could be a deeper pool of students to choose from for your shop. Work with your local civic leaders to advertise the quality of life in your community and the opportunities that are available where your facility is located.
Last, But Not Least
- Mentor them, they will learn from your mistakes and hopefully not repeat them
- Allow the freedom to make mistakes and grow by learning from experience
- Communicate with them as an adult
- Provide opportunities for them that build on their strengths
- Make them feel like an integral part of the team
- If they do good work, pay them something so they can get even more excited about a career in manufacturing
The skills gap dilemma has no “magic pill” solution. Now is a good time to start training some new recruits, right in your own back yard.
Do you have any other suggestions for action at the shop level? I welcome your thoughts and ideas.
Gary Snow is Principal Engineer, Okuma America Corporation.