Enticing younger workers is key
Despite the downturn in the economy, finding skilled factory workers is a tremendous challenge. A recent report by Deloitte Consulting LLC for the Manufacturing Institute, said that while “the manufacturing industry continues to be widely recognized as an indicator of the health of the U.S. economy,” it does not have the requisite skills to compete effectively globally.
Based on a survey of manufacturers, the study found that as many as 600,000 jobs are going unfilled despite the high unemployment rate in the U.S. Moreover, manufacturers report that their biggest challenge is filling those highly skilled production jobs which are crucial to their innovation and growth.
Manufacturers face a number of problems finding qualified help including having a large image problem, particularly with younger candidates. Old stereotypes of backbreaking labor and grimy working conditions still dominate the minds of the young. Secondly, the world of viral information exchange has given celebrity status to high technology and cutting edge entrepreneurship, thus making traditionally ‘old economy’ industries, such as manufacturing, seem comparatively unsexy. Lastly, the manufacturing companies themselves seem to be replying upon antiquated recruiting and training strategies, which are no longer effective in this ever-competitive and ever-changing economic landscape.
Joe Peters, CEO of Universal Plastics, a 48-year-old custom thermoformer based in Holyoke, Mass., has been attempting to resolve each of the problems mentioned above by partnering with local career centers, schools and government agencies to engage young people in advanced manufacturing while helping reduce the high unemployment in Western Massachusetts.