Labor Shortage? Grow, and Keep, Your Own

August 1, 2008

Manufacturing’s migration from Rust Belt to Sun Belt has helped create, at least in my home state of Ohio, a crisis in workforce development and retention among manufacturers. And I know that neighboring states such as Michigan and Illinois feel the same pinch. The crisis affects engineers and skilled workers, across the board, and the competition for talent is escalating. Southern-dwelling OEMs and suppliers are importing talent from the North and Midwest at rising rates. Add to that the mismatch throughout the country between available talent and the needs of manufacturers, and a labor crisis, if not in full swing, certainly looms.

Hammering home this point is a recent study of 2000 U.S. employers conducted by Manpower Inc., which finds that the top four most difficult jobs to fill are engineers, machinists/machine operators, skilled trades and technicians.

Where will our nation’s metalforming plants—whether located in the Rust or Sun Belt—be in the next few years if they don’t successfully reskill and up-skill their workforces, and refine their recruitment and retention strategies for the next generation of workers?

Here in Ohio, manufacturing’s emigration makes talent attraction and retention more of a hot button, which I was reminded of in a recent e-mail from Dan Schoch, engineering manager and director, advanced technologies and future workforce development for press manufacturer The Minster Machine Co. Ohio loses half of its engineering graduates every year to other areas of the country, and the world, a big reason why Minster has focused a lot of attention on workforce development and retention. Other manufacturing companies should do the same.

Minster has, over the years, developed an engineering-internship program, which currently has 23 students enrolled, Schoch says, assigned to 13 different functional areas based on their specific career interests. Of the engineers that historically have gone through the program, 95 percent graduate from college as engineers, and 95 percent of these engineers remain in Ohio after graduation. That success in retaining talent has attracted attention from state agencies, says Schoch, and Minster’s program could serve as a model for other Ohio manufacturing companies.

But why just Ohio? All manufacturers could and should take responsibility for helping train and retain a knowledgeable and skilled labor pool.

Minster has taken the next step in workforce development, beyond engineering, by starting an apprentice-internship program in concert with local vocational schools. The program provides students in the skilled trades with apprentice classes, as well as mentoring opportunities with Minster’s veteran machine-tool builders and machinists. Its plan, then, is to hire the best students after graduation, to replenish its pool of skilled workers.

If you’re experiencing skilled-worker retention challenges, check out It hosts a slew of articles loaded with advice on recruiting and cultivating a productive and satisfied workforce.

More advice, culled from the State of California’s Workforce Planning Model:

• Consider making changes to your workplace to make it a more desirable place to work, improving the quality of work life. Is the environment clean, orderly and professional? ?

• Use a “host” or “buddy” system to welcome new employees into the organization.

• Foster the development of collaborative and enriching relationships between supervisors, managers, technicians and operators.

• Make your company family friendly, so that employees can balance their work and home life.

• Offer employees opportunities to learn and develop, by offering rotational assignments, mentoring programs, training and development assignments, etc.

Industry-Related Terms: E-Mail, Model, Point
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms


See also: Nidec Press & Automation

Technologies: Management


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