July 15, 2015 / best practices, Employee Morale, human capital, industry news, LIT, maintaining talent, operator training, skills gap, strategic planning
Over the last few years, manufacturing experts and industry leaders have been discussing the shortage of skilled production workers. From Forbes and IndustryWeek to the Harvard Business Review, everyone is weighing in on the “skills gap” and how the manufacturing industry should be addressing it. In fact, the LENOX Institute of Technology has written a white paper and several blogs about the hot-button topic.
However, with all of this “talk,” one has to wonder if the so-called “skills gap” truly exists, or if it is just an industry trend that is being fabricated or blown out of proportion. To dig into this issue, the LENOX Institute of Technology turned to a few industrial metal-cutting companies to discuss the skills gap, whether or not it is affecting their organization, and, if so, how they are handling it.
The Gap is Real
All three organizations we interviewed agreed that there is indeed a skills gap in the industrial metal-cutting industry. “I have felt the impact of this,” says Matthew Dobratzl, production supervisor at Thyssen Krupp. “It seems that as more of the skilled guys are retiring, they are being replaced by employees who have not had the proper training.”
Barry Grider, operations manager at Standard Locknut, LLC, and Brandon Dodds, operations manager at EMJ, part of the Reliance Group, admit they are also feeling the affects of the skills gap. Specifically, Dodds says it is getting harder and harder to find workers that meet the level of quality his company expects.
To tackle this issue, Dobratzl, Grider and Dodds say it is imperative for companies to be both proactive and strategic. Below are three ways they are addressing—and filling—the skills gaps within their own organizations:
- Screen New Hires. According to Grider, bridging the skills gap starts with making quality hires. He accomplishes this at Standard Locknut by putting potential employees through a “very thorough screening and interviewing process.”Dodds of EMJ says he also relies heavily on screening. “In this current climate, we usually choose potential employees from temporary agencies and put them to work for several months to ‘feel’ them out and see if this is the right fit for them,” Dodds explains. “We usually see potential or non-potential in the first three days and then make decisions based on performance and work ethic.
- Focus on Training. The most critical aspect of filling the skills gap is training, according to Dobratzl of Thyssen Krupp. “Our strategy is to provide the best hands-on training with our new hires and teach them best practices,” Dobratzl says. “This is extremely important to our success, as we need our employees working error free.” Grider of Standard Locknut agrees, adding that his company actively invests in internal and external training for both new and existing employees.Dodds believes training should always be a focus for manufacturers, skills gap or not. “If your organization does not focus on training, then you can’t expect your employees to produce a quality product,” Dodds says. “Building a strong organizational team to meet the ever-changing customer demands will go far, but in the end, it all boils down to quality training.”
- Value Employees. With a small talent pool, it will also serve manufacturers well to intentionally work at maintaining and valuing their current employees. Grider says Standard Locknut does this by continually investing in employees and by “treating them with respect and providing them with all the tools necessary to perform their jobs.”Dodds echoes this sentiment and adds that good managements boils down to “training your employees well, treating your employees well, and compensating your employees fairly.”
As the above feedback confirms, industrial metal-cutting companies are feeling the effects of the manufacturing skills gap. With more and more workers retiring, this gap stands to only grow larger, unless companies start acting now.
Today’s managers will need to be strategic in the way they hire, train, and maintain their employees if they want to successfully move forward. These days, industry leaders are finding that human capital is not just valuable, but an essential part of success.
How is your metal-cutting organization approaching and equipping its next generation of workers?