Where Will Manufacturers Find Tomorrow's Workers?

Earlier this year, Theresa Houck, executive editor for our sister publication The Journal, started a group discussion on our LinkedIn page that continues to generate ongoing responses from group members. The discussion titled "Where Will Manufacturers Find Tomorrow's Workers?" references the U.S.'s inability to find the skilled labor needed to fill vacant engineering and technology positions. Houck asked our readers what the industry could do to fix this problem and this is what they said:

Brian Wood, AutoCAD design and industrial automation professional, wrote: "I think the best thing we can do is start hiring the qualified workers looking for work that already exists. That alone would make a big dent in those numbers. The second half is a no-brainier. Companies need to step up to the plate and invest in the people they have, and pay to further their education if they want a work force that is on top of technology. But sadly in this country, most companies just want to cut the work force, cut wages and then wonder why the rest of the world is stomping us into the ground. There was a time when companies invested in the people that made the company successful, but now they waist money funding unproductive self-serving CEOs that have no invested interest in a company. Funny that common sense has left American business."

Manuel Chitalo, an industrial automation professional, wrote: "There's a lot of qualified but unemployed workers. I am one of them."

Kalele Kahindi, currently an instructor for Coast Kicks Taekwondo Multi-Sports Academy, wrote: "We have a lot of skilled workers in other countries (that) you can hire; (I) am one of them who is looking for such (a) job." Companies need to help interested people in other countries relocate to fill positions in the U.S., he said.

Tomas Sierra, RRL solutions manager - Eastern hemisphere for Weatherford, wrote: "(The) issue is not enough (positions) to fill a demand for programmers. From the different projects I have worked on, I can assure that you can find programmers pretty much anywhere... but an integrator who is able to interpret and understand the client's need, keeping into consideration the possible failures, risk points, etc. is the challenge. Most automation companies are becoming service deliverables, rather than engineering companies where projects are still developed, understood and implemented based on the customer’s core needs."

Wayne Standen, maintenance shift manager at Windsor Foods, wrote: "I have to agree with Manual. I just spent eight months looking for a job in my field and was not even considered for a large percentage of what is out there, not because I don't have the skills and/or experience, but because I don't have a degree. I have been in the maintenance and automation field for nearly 30 years. The companies today are just not looking for someone with a wide spectrum of real world experience; they want someone with a couple of years in the field with a degree. I'm not saying that having a degree is not great but when I started in this field there was less focus on degrees and more on actually having the ability to think on your feet and be an innovator; that can't be taught. I have found work and am happy to say the company I'm working for is very forward thinking in the area of technology, but they also understand the value of "experience". The interest in the skills you speak of is dwindling. The focus on computer sciences, graphics, law and medicine is the direction I see a lot of younger people focusing their attention. The areas of industral technology are less interesting to them as they are looking to make that one device or discovery that makes them wealthy over night. No one wants to have a career anymore; they want instant success. Companies in the U.S. need to focus more on people that have the potential and desire to excel in industrial technology and automation, and help move them forward with targeted training. Not everyone that has the ability and the drive to succeed in these areas necessarily has a degree or the ability to get a degree. Some people just don't have the resources to go to college. All I'm saying is (that) I believe we are overlooking a great deal of talent in America without even knowing it."

Ben Rountree, account manager for Oxford International, wrote: "Manufacturers should turn to Oxford International when they have needs for senior engineers. I have what manufacturers need, right when they need it. Companies need to realize you pay for what you get. I'll staff your position and I.D. the right candidate in five minutes. The candidate can start on site within a week, anywhere in the country they are needed, ending the pains of searching for candidates for my clients. But companies must pay a premium, move fast, react and give feedback. If you want to mail a letter, you pay for a stamp, drop it in the mailbox, and it takes days or weeks to get to its intended destination. If you're urgent and the letter has to get there tomorrow, you get yourself to a FedEx and pay a premium to have it overnighted, thus putting forth more effort and spending more money - but the package is there tomorrow. Same thing here. I've even had companies tell me money is no problem, that they can pay whatever rate if they need people, and then in the same sentence, tell me they are turning away business and new clients left because they don’t have the technical engineering staff and can’t find it in time. Even after I show them resumes of available talent they need, I'll never understand that one. Wayne, get registered with a firm. As long as you can pass the interview process with a firm, it opens up more possibilities for you. Being submitted by a firm to a company gives you more clout then just blindly applying somewhere through traditional methods (where you) don't know anyone. Reach out to Oxford! 

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Sarah Cechowski is the associate digital editor for Control Design and Industrial Networking. Email her at scechowski@putman.net or check out her Google+ profile.