The skills gap is real and so is the struggle to find capable and qualified employees. There are millions of manufacturing jobs available, yet we lack the skilled workforce to fill those jobs. The answer to this is businesses getting active in curating sustainable upskilling solutions and voicing the need to re-introduce vocational education in our schools. Also we need more support for organizations who share our passion for manufacturing and mentoring another generation of skilled workers.
I am at my desk daydreaming about my ideal employee, “5-7 years’ experience, can do set ups and program, has mastery over all basic and intermediate machining skills, of course charming, always on time, and a good communicator. This employee is a great problem solver and works well with others and the list goes on. Elusive, difficult to find, hiding in the shadows, you and I both know him well, the ideal employee. Then one of my lead machinists brings me back to reality, “Sheralee your ideal employee doesn’t exist”. With a deep sigh I said “I know your right but I can dream can’t I.”
Wouldn’t it be great if we could pick up employees like you do an off the shelf product. Shiny and new ready to work, with just the right amount of experience and knowledge. We all know this is just is not possible. How do we find the right employees?
At Savage Machining we’ve discovered new ways to close the skills gap and find the right candidates. We are utilizing apprenticeship and On the Job Training (OJT) programs. To find eligible candidates, we participate in job fairs hosted through a local community college. We partnered with Goodwill SoCal, a local apprenticeship program, and our community colleges to meet the needs of our business.
At Savage Machining we’ve discovered new ways to close the skills gap and find the right candidates.
Small shops need to grow their current employees and expand their skill set. The question becomes how we can accomplish this without serious financial investment and a loss in productivity. Until recently all our employees were grown by working alongside another senior employee. They came to us with little to no experience and were trained by another employee in the shop. We needed to find a more effective solution to meet our staffing needs.
Looking for new candidates can go in a few directions. You can hire through the recommendation of a colleague or fellow business owner or an employee. Another choice is to place ads on Indeed, Craigslist, or other online or print advertising. Lastly you can use an employment agency. I have used all of these methods and some were successful and some were not. Another option is to utilize the local community college. There are many local Ventura and Los Angeles County community colleges that offer Industrial Arts or manufacturing education programs.
Our company participated in a job fair hosted by a community college specifically for manufacturing. We met several candidates at a time which was a plus. Secondly these were candidates who were already enrolled or had completed basic machining courses and CNC set up courses. We did not need to go through teaching on the caliper or a micrometer, or on how you read a blueprint. They were coming to work with foundational knowledge and buy in. They were not in the process of discovering a career rather they already made a career decision.
I stumbled upon the OJT program offered by Goodwill SoCal. I wish I had discovered the benefits of the OJT program much sooner. We all know the scenario of hiring a new employee; putting time and money into training them and they leave or are not a good fit for the company. The OJT program allowed me to hire new employees and receive compensation in the form of reimbursement of wages. Participating in an OJT program helped our company offset those new hire costs and lower our financial risk.
Apprenticeship is a new territory for us. Currently the program we are participating in is CAMAC. CAMAC is designed to bring employees and employers together through mentorship. This apprenticeship program provides the employer with OJT funding and free access to online courses for their employees; from basic operator level training to CNC programming.
This apprentice program does require commitment from both the employee and the employer. Long term benefits for the employee are receiving a federal credential and the opportunity to increase their skills and knowledge while still working. The benefits to the employer are more versatile staff, succession planning for your current work force, and the opportunity to gain and retain talent.
Employees who can upskill increase the businesses profitability and create a more stable workforce in the manufacturing industry. In small business, time is money, and you can’t afford to waste either. The administration of the program is minimal. You are not spending your time and money on the administration of the program. Apprenticeship allows you to spend your resources on building your workforce and developing a love for manufacturing.
The best employees we have were all grown right in our own shop.
Employees are like making machined parts. They start out as raw material and eventually the raw material turns into a beautiful piece. This is the result of hard work being put in and dedication on the part of the employer and the employee. We recognized the skills gap; however that didn’t stop us from helping the employee get the skills they needed on the job. We identified a desire to learn and a willingness to be taught a skill. The best employees we have were all grown right in our own shop. Who knows maybe the ideal employee is right in your very own shop all he or she needs is a hand to lift them up to the next level.