Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’re aware of the manufacturing worker shortage and its impact on machine shops. We all have stories about the difficulty of finding passionate, skilled workers. It’s not a good situation when your company’s future potential is limited by an inability to fill critical positions.
Most young adults perceive manufacturing jobs as dirty and dull, when, in reality, the design, development and creation of a machined part is an incredible example of creativity and workmanship, worthy of a very competitive salary. Educating high school and college students about these opportunities is the responsibility of all of us and requires consistent effort.
When I teach elementary school students for Junior Achievement, explaining my business and showing samples of the parts we produce, the children are captivated. They enjoy holding, examining and hearing about the parts. They’re like little sponges, soaking up my excitement and eventually pointing out machined and fabricated metal parts in their classrooms.
It pleases me to confidently tell these kids that they’ll have opportunities in our industry. When I leave a class, they’re more knowledgeable and excited about manufacturing than they were before. If it wasn’t for me explaining it to them, they probably wouldn’t hear about it.
In spite of my optimism and desire to educate others, many challenges remain when it comes to filling critical positions at our shop. Instead of recruiting outside, an often overlooked method is to search in your own company for untapped talent and creativity. The best candidates sometimes are right under your nose. Perhaps they quietly work in the shop, unaware they have other valuable skills. Maybe you’ve never contemplated they could do anything else. Possibly, they were never properly interviewed or evaluated to ensure they were placed in the optimal position.
There are many reasons, but taking a fresh look at existing personnel and carefully examining their true talents and skills can be an eye-opener and may provide a cost-effective solution to a shortage of skilled workers. In very small shops or when a business is flat, this may not be possible. But many machine shops are searching for good candidates and need younger employees to fill the void left by older, retiring workers. We’ve added several employees in the past year and discovered useful skills and talent that benefited our company and offered advancement opportunities for the employees.
Occasionally, promoting from within doesn’t work. A candidate may be talented but immature and unable to effectively manage new responsibilities. Many shop workers are tremendously talented but, unfortunately, have never been taught how to utilize that talent to their advantage. They’re simply unaware of what’s within them. But removing yourself from the daily grind and taking a new look at the talent you already have may reap rewards. Don’t overlook it.