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Strategies to Recruit and Acquire Skilled Trades Talent

Production line worker in factory
In the past few years, interest in skilled trades vocations has revived, thanks in part to public and private sectors like Manufacturing Day. However, the demand for experienced workers continues to increase without corresponding growth in the talent pool. Factors that complicate this issue include the number of skilled tradesmen retiring or leaving the profession and the lack of emphasis on skilled trades in middle and high school in favor of professions like information technology, law and medicine.

As a Deloitte-Manufacturing Institute report noted, “Over the next decade, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs likely need to be filled. The skills gap is expected to result in 2 million of those jobs going unfilled.” A new Aerotek white paper, Future-Proofing Manufacturing’s Skilled Trades Talent Needs, outlines key trends in the industry and offers recommendations on how manufacturers can address the issue.

Market-rate wages key to attracting talent

In order to compete for talent, wages are slowly rising to match demand. Given healthy compensation levels and continued rising demand, many manufacturers employing skilled trades professionals realize the necessity of offering competitive wages for these positions.

Yet despite successful early initiatives to shift perceptions and spur growth in the trades profession, many companies still think of the recruit in a traditional sense and continue to set unyielding expectations for a certain individual at a set pay rate. With talent especially scarce at more senior experience levels, companies should look beyond their “ideal candidate” models to exercise a degree of adaptability.

Employers seeking more technical skills

Another factor driving wages up is the growing role of automation in manufacturing, as the traditional maintenance skill set evolves to a more diagnostic, computer-based, sophisticated skill set. Assembly-line workers now need to run, operate and troubleshoot computer-directed machinery. Manufacturers maintain complex websites with thousands of product and pricing options to be updated and maintained. And where forklifts are still driven by people, drivers often use software programs that track inventory.

Aerotek Executive Director of Sales Bill Ruff notes, “We’re starting to see a more diverse level of skill sets with a higher acumen needed in the manufacturing segment. As companies are increasing investments in design for a higher end product and optimized speed-to-market, the market is experiencing a healthy demand for all skill levels, from entry to semi-skilled to professional.”

How to address the talent gap

Nathan Coin
, Aerotek manager of Commercial Divisional Operations, notes, “There is no magic formula; when you articulate a dynamic Employee Value Proposition, invest in training and apprenticeships, prioritise employee development and partner with a staffing company, you can make great strides to address the issue effectively.”

For manufacturers, partnering with staffing experts to attract viable candidates early, sharing experiences and communicating information on career paths to promote the message that long, sustainable jobs are thriving in the skilled trades. Companies are creating apprenticeships and internships, promoting employees and paying them competitively — creating a culture of continuous improvement. And in the long-term, those are the businesses that receive the most referrals, further easing recruiting challenges and enabling them to attract the best talent.

Trade industry associations are also making a focussed effort. The United Association of plumbers, fitters, welders and service techs engages in targeted recruiting in high schools. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) work with principals and have launched a social media campaign to promote alternatives to a traditional four-year college degree.

Ultimately, government and business leaders, industry experts, staffing professionals and educational institutions should work creatively and collaboratively to prepare both present and emerging talent to meet and conquer the challenges of disruption, both today and in the future.

Want to learn more? Access Future-Proofing Manufacturing’s Skilled Trades Talent Needs now.