By Shawn Fitzgerald
It’s no secret U.S. manufacturers are struggling to find the right talent for their open jobs.
We all know how important it is to fill the positions left vacant by retiring baby boomers, but it’s alarming when you see that one-third of parents1 would dissuade a child from pursuing a manufacturing job and that enrollment in manufacturing apprenticeships dropped by 40%.2 Those factors add up quickly; Deloitte predicts 2 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled, and the skills gap will triple by 2025.
While the younger generations are familiar with big-name brands such as GE and Tesla, it’s companies further down the supply chain that need to step up their game. Take hydraulic fluid companies as an example. They’re very important to those companies in aerospace and automotive we mentioned above, but they don’t have multi-million-dollar advertising campaign budgets at their disposal.
There’s still important work to be done without the massive price tag—and we at THOMASNET.com are here to help. Here are three ways you can help close the skills gap and set up your company (and industry) for long-term success:
STEM education helps bring awareness, but it’s up to us to take advantage of the opportunity by mentoring and guiding younger employees to build a career path in manufacturing.
The best way to showcase how great it can be to work in manufacturing is by seeing it firsthand through apprenticeships. This is a great opportunity to get those workers straight out of high school and in college the training they need from veteran employees, which will help them learn firsthand from experienced workers and pick up the tricks of the trade. (We recommend you check out The Manufacturing Institute’s detailed guide on how to get started on building an apprenticeship program at www.themanufacturinginstitute.org.)
Similar to apprenticeships, on-the-job training gives people that are new to manufacturing an opportunity to go inside facilities and learn more about the business while getting paid. It’s an “earn-as-you-learn” program that’s planned, organized, and conducted by the business.
The federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funds many on-the-job training programs and could be a good fit for your business. In exchange for hiring and training screened applicants, the WIOA reimburses up to 50% of a trainee’s gross wages throughout the training period. (Visit www.doleta.gov/wioa.)
Do your research and see if your business would benefit from the WIOA. (Doesn’t hurt that you’ll be reimbursed for your contribution to closing the skills gap!)
Networking is a good practice on its own, but it’s even better for our task at hand.
If there are local organizations in your community, join them and promote your business and industry. If there are any focused specifically on manufacturing, work with the other members to spread the word about the industry. Even if there aren’t formal meetings, search for initiatives and events to reach potential hires. You’ll be able to speak to manufacturing’s growth and the opportunities better than anyone.
Making the effort to involve yourself in the larger manufacturing community and creating opportunities in your facilities for millennial workers are more important now than ever.
Shawn Fitzgerald is vice president of marketing at Thomas. He is responsible for leading all marketing efforts for the Thomas family of companies, including THOMASNET.com, Thomas Marketing, and Thomas Enterprise.
1 “2017 U.S. Perception of the Manufacturing Industry,” www2.deloitte.com
2 “Workforce Shortage Skills Gap, Part 1” www.fieldaware.com.