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Ask Aerotek: Skills to Pay the Bills in Manufacturing

Welder welding aluminum

Employers in the manufacturing sector are in need of a few good employees. Research shows that up to 2 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled between now and 2025. That spells big opportunity for job-seekers like you.

How do you get your foot in the door? And what manufacturing skills are most in demand?

Aerotek hiring experts answer these questions all the time. We asked Matt Molitor, a professional account recruiting manager with extensive experience in manufacturing, to share his advice for those on the hunt for opportunities in manufacturing.

Why should people be interested in manufacturing jobs?

“There’s a lot of opportunity in manufacturing right now. A lot of skilled workers are retiring, so there’s a big skills gap, and employers are struggling to fill positions. Manufacturers have responded by bridging that gap — offering both technical training to those who’ve gone without it and a foot in the door to those who have the technical training but not the on-site experience. Either way, employees have a chance to grow pretty quickly.”

How are manufacturers training people on the job?

“I’ll give an example. One of my largest clients developed a training program for welding. So they hire general laborers, and then take the ones that have three months of fantastic attendance and demonstrate a knack for learning and initiative-taking, and they offer a training program to the top ten people who want to be part of it. Those contractors get a four dollar per hour raise once they pass the training program.”

Wow. You mentioned welding. Are there other skills that are highly valuable right now?

“Machining, automotive and diesel mechanics are also in need. Another really big skill gap is soldering. That's a skill set that a lot of clients are looking for in the electronics and medical device field, which is growing rapidly. So anybody who earns an IPC-A-610 or J-Standard certification can really set themselves apart. Also forklift certification, and general certifications in blueprints, framing, and hazmat.”

“Basically any certification you can get will get the attention of employers, but some are more niche than others. I tell anyone, if you're halfway decent at math and you're mechanically inclined, look into becoming a machinist. The jobs are there.”

Let’s say a potential employee just wanted to get a foot in the door and then build on that and look at certifications further down the line. How would such a person stand out as a great candidate?

“The two biggest things I see employers responding to are reliability and initiative. So anyone who comes in and even goes a month without absence or tardiness really stands out. That and whether you’re asking about how to help even when it’s slow, like ‘What can I do next? Can I grab a broom?’ Every client and manager I talk to says they’d gladly take someone like that over a candidate with five years experience who doesn’t do those two things.”

So how do you recommend people emphasize that in their job search?

“There are some easy ways to show your reliability and initiative. For example, if you’re fifteen minutes early to the interview, that gets you a leg up. And if you send a follow-up thank you letter after the interview, that shows initiative and a positive attitude. Another other big thing that helps your case in the hiring process is providing references that will speak well for your reliability and initiative. Those little things can really make a difference between you and other candidates with more experience who don’t show the extra effort.”

How does having a relationship with a recruiter help the candidates you work with?

“I do my best to help candidates put their job history in a context that makes them attractive to employers. We always follow up with your contacts to ask how pleased past employers have been with your work, and we help you take those references to the next step and relay them towards the next contract.”

“We also do a lot of work up front to make sure you’re comfortable with the requirements of any given position. We always clarify with employers what the expectations are for day one, week one, 30 days, 60 days, etc., and advocate to make sure you get the proper on-the-job training for the desired task. And before you show up to a new job, we'll set up a walkthrough so you’ll get a feel for the environment and what you’ll be doing in it.”

“The biggest thing I do for employees is promote them to employers as the top candidate as opposed to just one among a stack of twenty resumes that goes through human resources. Since we have a relationship with employers, recruiters are able to put you on the top of the pile.”

Learn more

Want to know more about manufacturing careers? Check out previous articles on the subject, such as “A New Generation of Manufacturing,” or “Manufacturing Solutions for the Skilled Trades Gap.”

Get help

If you’re looking for an opportunity, consider reaching out to an expert like Matt Molitor. Specialists near you can help prepare a career strategy built to develop manufacturing skills and experience.

Talk with an Aerotek recruiter. And if you’re looking for a job, visit our job board to find your next great opportunity. Create a free career account today to customize your search.