In my 3 plus decades in recruiting, with a bulk of it being in manufacturing, I have seen many changes and trends, both good and bad. Below are some idle thoughts from what, on rare occasions, is an idle mind. This is my perspective on what is going on in manufacturing, and what employers should think about.
The Near Future of Manufacturing Employment
1. With the population getting older and more manufacturing moving back to the U.S., there is a shortage of manufacturing talent available, and it will only get worse.
2. Fewer college graduates with technical degrees are looking at moving into careers in manufacturing. More and more engineering graduates in particular are looking for positions in design engineering, or for opportunities where they feel that they can use their engineering education. Many don’t see that happening if they move into the direction of manufacturing. These entry level engineers want to design stuff, not make stuff.
3. Employers need to have a realistic understanding of the talent available, and in some cases change their perspective on what they can and will hire. We’ve talked about this at length already, but it bears repeating. Employers will need to be flexible.
4. There is a need to develop “in house” training and/or mentoring programs to bring talent along at their companies. With the shortage of adequate candidates, the best alternative to trying to get lucky is to make your own. While training employees in the skills required can backfire if they leave in pursuit of higher wages after you’ve trained them, you should have measures in place to keep that from happening. If people are happy where they are, they won’t have a reason to leave.
5. Since companies are investing thousands or even millions of dollars in technology to make their operations profitable, they should not nickel and dime the search for talent to make that technology work. This isn’t just self promotion either. What is the point of investing in the right equipment if you won’t invest in the right people to run it? even if you don’t use a “headhunter”, and attempt to fill a position on your own, it will still cost time and money. Invest wisely and be open minded.
6. There is a critical shortage of production managers and supervisors. We have clients telling us continually that filling positions in manufacturing management is very difficult and time consuming. unfortunately, that is a trend that isn’t likely to abate. If it’s hard to find entry level people, it stands to reason that higher level employees will be even more difficult to come by.
While it may seem like we’ve only talked about the negative side of manufacturing hiring, it’s only the result of a more positive over all trend: manufacturing in the U.S. is on the rise. That should make it easier to accept the changes needed in hiring practices.