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4 Ways to Meet Future Workforce Needs Now

In a recent study from Achievers Workforce Institute, 52% of respondents said they plan to look for a new job in 2021. Adding this potential for turnover to the digital skills gap already facing manufacturers, keeping your organization adequately staffed seems daunting. But there is hope.

On April 14, at the Manufacturers Alliance’s latest virtual seminar, Digital Skills at the Factory, industry peers came together to discuss what is deepening the skills gap, what’s at stake for competitiveness, and ways to address it for your company in the future. So, what can manufacturers do? The top four takeaways from the event were:

  1. Invest in partnerships for training
  2. Apply tools and technology
  3. Expand the talent pool
  4. Support continuous skill development

Invest in Partnerships for Training

Several speakers stressed the necessity of involving industry in academic partnerships, from reinforcing STEM education in middle and high schools to creating certificate and degree programs that teach the exact skill sets that manufacturers are looking for. And while not all companies can create a customized program, you can start small by simply reaching out to a technical college near a local plant and asking how to get involved. Schools need a combination of time, resources, and knowledge to better facilitate learning.

If you have the budget to create a more advanced program, you can influence what training is offered by partnering with others. For example, leaders at 3M have partnered with Festo Didactic, Inc. and the National Coalition of Certification Centers (NC3) to supply equipment for hands-on learning and input about the needed skills to create an Industry 4.0 Certification Program offered around the country. Rockwell Automation developed a 12-week certification program that they provide for free to qualified veterans, who are then placed in jobs with manufacturing companies.

Apply Tools and Technology

In the race to get more skilled workers, salaries, benefits, and corporate culture all come into play. But don’t miss on the more basic elements, such as how hard is it to apply? Hendrickson struggled with getting more qualified applicants for their openings and found that modernizing your hiring processes goes a long way to looking like a modern employer. If you have lengthy application processes, it’s time to try out some new tech tools and more flexible options. Try open interview days so prospects can show up without applying first, or tap into LinkedIn and other recruiting programs so that employees apply just once with the platform and can then easily push their information to you without filling out an application again. Use bots to help screen candidates and schedule interview times while staff focuses attention elsewhere.

For technology that helps with training, you can look at Stanley Black & Decker’s example. The company uses DeepHow, a video training program that allows easy video capture with a mobile device paired with central access to the video across the company. The product offers a way to centralize training and cut down on the one-to-one transfer of information, which is often inconsistent and results in a loss of long-term knowledge.

Expand the Talent Pool

For 74% of new jobs in the U.S., a 4-year degree is required. Do you really need a college graduate or an employee with a specific skill set to do the job? According to Dr. Gary Bertoline, Dean of the Purdue Polytechnic Institute, you might want to consider changing your criteria, opening your candidate pool. Hiring for skills instead of degrees will help you get qualified staff to do the job you need faster. Hands-on learning in a setting such as the “smart learning factory” at Purdue offer avenues for accelerated competency development.

Additionally, you might rethink who to reskill in your organization. During the pandemic, factories trained office administrative staff to help with operations to get the product out. Up to 30 million people in the U.S. without college degrees have the skills to earn 70% more money. If you can identify skills, such as communication or personal initiative, that translate well to reskilling, you use employees you currently have.

Support Continuous Skill Development

The biggest takeaway from all the speakers is that training never ends. New machinery and processes create amazing innovation for a company, but it requires constant staff training. Many of the academic and certification programs offer training updates for a year after completion to help. And the video training programs are useful in pushing out updated information as well. Investing in your employees is a long-term strategy to keeping your workforce on pace with competitors.