Most machine shops have, at some point, felt the pains from the labor shortage. In July 2019, nearly a half of million manufacturing jobs were left unfilled. Skilled manufacturing and machining jobs are becoming increasingly more challenging to fill, and the skills gap is widening. According to a recent study conducted by Deloitte & The MFG Institute by 2028, we could see 2.4M open positions in the U.S. manufacturing industry due to talent shortage.
To compound the problem, filling a skilled production position is taking 33 percent more time. The average days to fill a position increased from 70 to 93 days. Unfilled positions impact a shop’s ability to complete orders, fulfill customer needs, and expand production.
The study also revealed that most manufacturers believe the No. 1 cause of the skills shortage is due to shifting in the skillset from the introduction of new advanced technology and automation followed by the students/parent’s negative perception toward the manufacturing industry. Here a few ideas on how you can address concerns and recruit for the future.
#1 Develop Community Partnerships
Community partnerships allow you to raise awareness of both the machining trade and your business and show how today’s modern machine shops differ from those in the past. Participate with local middle and high schools as well as vocational schools during career days or host open houses or field trips for schools and parents to visit your shop. Reach out to professors at local colleges and universities on being a guest lecturer for the day and attend recruiting events hosts by the schools. Look for opportunities to sponsor or volunteer at local STEM and robotics events or competitions. Lastly, check with your local Chamber of Commerce for facilitated partnerships with high schools, community and trade colleges, and industry leaders to provide access to education, training, and work-based learning opportunities to engage with students.
#2 Think Outside the Box for Recruiting
Gone are the days of placing a job posting in the newspaper or posting a help wanted sign on the door. As a standard of practice, you should be recruiting potential candidates from job boards and through your social media channels. Refreshing and updating job titles and descriptions to focus on the technological and advancement opportunities of the position could give you a competitive advantage with job seekers.
You can take recruiting to the next level by working directly with high schools, local colleges, government, and community organizations to develop work-study, internship, and apprenticeship programs at your shop. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 91% of apprentices that complete an apprenticeship are still employed nine months later.
Look to recruit from underserved communities including, women, veterans, formerly incarcerated, and people with disabilities. For example, the Uniquely Abled Project (UAP) is developing partnerships to provide specialized training and job placement in the manufacturing industry. In 2018, two colleges joined the program to create a boot-camp style CNC machining program specifically for high-functioning autistic individuals.
#3 Provide On-The-Job Training
New employees are more likely to embrace new positions or occupations when they receive in-depth training and a thorough onboarding process. Provide mentorship programs where both the mentor and mentee can learn from each other. Use digital training platforms to help employees enhance their skills, host internal lunch and learns, and provide opportunities to attend educational sessions at tradeshows and exhibitions.
#4 Get Social
You need to be on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram and posting regularly. According to a report from Pew Internet Research Center, 92% of high school students use social media daily. Social media is a great way to connect with the younger generations. Also, these platforms have an incredible community of machinists where they share their work, give tips and tricks, and talk about best practices. To stay connected, machine shops need to be using social media for marketing, recruiting, showcasing work, and exposing a new generation to the machining industry.
#5 Provide a Fair Wage and Benefits Package
By offering fair wages and a comprehensive benefits package, your shop increases its chances of recruiting and retaining top talent. Flexible work schedules and paid time off provide work-life balance, tuition, or certification reimbursement programs promotes continued learning, and 401K or profit-sharing help employees plan for their futures. Additionally, having clear paths for career advancement shows employees' growth potential within the company.
Perceptions need to change from the past machine shops of repetitive work in a dirty environment to the clean and modern machine shop that focus on advanced machining skills and programming. Today’s younger generations have grown up with rapidly changing technology, and the key to finding skilled machinists is to find individuals that thrive in environments that are continually evolving.