Why Finding the Right Worker is a Challenge

Why Finding the Right Worker is a Challenge

One of the biggest challenges cited by manufacturing employers has been an inability to find the right people to fill their open positions. This might very well have a lot to do with what they’ve been hoping to find in candidates. Companies have been looking for somebody that can do it all – high tech and low tech work – and that type of person has been difficult to find.

“Manufacturers need multi-functional engineering technicians possessing both traditional manufacturing and engineering skills. The result is that today’s high-value production worker is a hybrid of a boots-on-the-ground technician and an engineer laser-focused on improving how things get done,” said authors with economic data and research company Emsi in a report titled Manufacturing is Not Dead.

To reach that conclusion, researchers used information from nearly 400,000 manufacturing job openings to identify the type skills most requested by employers. Their findings illustrate demand for a very specialized type of worker that has likely become required because of numerous technological advancements in the industry.


Two Worlds

manufacturingAlthough overall employment in manufacturing is much lower than it was in the early 1990s, overall productivity and output is vastly higher. Advancements in efficiency and production technology helped companies achieve more output with a lot less people. But it has also meant that people working in the industry have had to adapt continually while still maintaining traditional manufacturing skills, which has led to the job requirements of today.

It’s a bit like being in two worlds – one highly advanced and the other tried and true.

“Workers must keep one foot firmly rooted in the old world of machining and welding, while planting the other in the advanced computer-automated technologies of the future, Emsi authors said. “The demand for such a broad skill set is eye-catching, especially in this era of hyper-specialization.”


Who is the Ideal Candidate?

The 400,000 job openings that researchers analyzed were dominated by a few different manufacturing categories, including: aerospace and defense, automotive, building materials, consumer goods, and healthcare. From all of the job openings, the most in-demand skills were clustered into four groups, which included the following in order of demand:

  • Traditional Production Skills:Welding, machining, fabrication, etc. These skills are the most predominantly sought across all of the various job postings, indicating employers still place a premium on them.
  • Computer-Automated Technologies (CAT):Computerized technologies that aid in the design and creation of products. With the rise in automation, employers are increasingly seeking people with experience in things like 3D modeling, computer design, trigonometry, and computer-aided manufacturing.
  • Six Sigma:Engineering and process improvement methodologies that improve efficiency and effectiveness by removing waste and reducing variation. Modern companies operate on tight margins with precise parameters, so continual improvement is essential.
  • Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP):Quality control processes. Employers report a need for constant monitoring and perpetual process improvement as critical for meeting necessary quality requirements.

Aside from those four technical skill groups, employers also said they have a strong need for soft skills. Traits like leadership, problem solving, computer literacy, interpersonal skills, and writing are just as much in demand as any of the industry-specific traits previously mentioned. Proficiency with software like Microsoft Excel and multi-lingual speech capabilities were also highly sought.


The Challenge Makes Sense

Emsi’s research describing the range of qualities employers hope to find in a single candidate helps to illustrate just how hard it can be to find the right person to fill open manufacturing jobs. It’s definitely a big challenge, and that’s why many industry and state-level groups have begun collaborating on ways to produce this kind of candidate rather than search for them. If you’d like to see more about these workforce initiatives, visit BuildingIndiana.com and check out other stories under our Manufacturing and Ag features tab.