Attracting and retaining the next generation of manufacturing talent

Labor shortages are happening in every sector, but one where the problem is especially worrisome is in manufacturing. The Covid-19 pandemic shut down many factories and plants and some workers didn’t come back when facilities reopened. As a result—and when combined with demographic shifts — 2.1 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled by 2030[1].

As dire as that statistic seems, there are strategies that small manufacturing companies can deploy to ensure that they get and keep the talent they need.

Keep pay competitive

Compensation is one of the most important factors when workers are considering taking a job. You can ensure that your company clears this first hurdle by maintaining a competitive wage for workers at all levels. An increasing number of city and states are requiring employers to list salaries for all open positions, so the days of not being fully transparent on wages is coming to an end. Be clear on wage increases with both new and existing employees and acknowledge that you understand the toll that inflation is having on the cost of nearly everything. Employees want to know that you’re taking real-world circumstances into account when deciding on salaries and pay increases.

Stay current on training

Next to pay, one of the most effective ways to attract and retain manufacturing workers is to provide them with the opportunity to advance their career. For newer workers that might mean pairing them up with a mentor or senior executive who can suggest different paths within the company or opportunities to try different parts of the business. Automation and technology are playing a greater role in the manufacturing sector as well. That means you might consider paying for training to help workers learn augmented reality/virtual reality skills that are increasingly being used on factory floors.

Consider unconventional talent pools

With the tightest labor market in decades, you may want to consider looking at a huge segment of the U.S. population as a potential talent pool: people with criminal records. There are nearly 80 million Americans with a criminal record, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As a result, organizations have formed that help these individuals re-enter the workforce, including within the manufacturing sector. Research shows that individuals with criminal records perform the same as, or better than, employees without criminal records and that they have lower turnover and stronger loyalty to their employers. You can also reach out to community colleges in your area to offer manufacturing apprenticeships and internships. Many colleges today require students to have a semester or two of real-world job experience, and this is a great way to reach these potential employees before they graduate.

The labor market is likely to remain tight for the next decade. The number of people of working age (15 to 65) is projected to decrease in the U.S. between now and 2036. Doing all you can to make your company an attractive place to work and thrive will help you face those headwinds successfully.