How Can the Manufacturing Industry Attract Talent? Start at an Early Age

July 10, 2017

By Cherie Shepard, Director of Packaging, Material Handling & Food Processing

Hiring and retaining skilled Material Handling, Packaging and Processing workers is top of mind for executives across most industries today. A recent article by Hunt Scanlon cited that 90% of executives surveyed stated that retaining new hires is an issue for their companies, while they also said that 10 to 25% of new hires leave within six months. With the increase in automation in various areas, this issue has become prevalent in the Manufacturing industry. On top of the challenges of hiring and retaining a skilled workforce, an EMSI forecast showed that about 22% of the 2015 tech labor pool will turn over by 2025 due to retirements and departures (DC Velocity article). A combination of retention issues, turnover, and a low number of recent graduates in the field is creating a need for all engineering disciplines.

How can this be fixed? Companies across industries are working to find ways to introduce manufacturing to students early and encourage careers in the industry. Getting students interested in technology needs to start at an early age. With the preconceived notions that all manufacturing floors are uncomfortable, unpleasant and dirty, teaching kids the dynamics of equipment and automation should help foster the idea of a technical future. From industry-related educational support, to internships, companies are leading the way to build the workforce of manufacturing.

Hanel Storage Systems, a leader in the manufacture and integration of vertical storage units, donated an automated storage retrieval system (AS/RS), the RotomatÒ to Western Guilford High School in Greensboro, North Carolina. This equipment is used for education and demonstrations for the Logistics Education Department at the school and for students to learn about warehousing and supply chain management. In addition, Hanel also donated a RotomatÒ  to the Vincennes University Logistics Training & Education Center in Plainfield, Indiana. This generous donation will help college students in Supply Chain Logistics Management to gain real-world experience with equipment and technology that today’s workforce is using, as well as hands-on experience.

Both donations of the RotomatÒ were made through the Material Handling Industry (MHI), the largest association in the United States dedicated to the promotion and education of the material handling, logistics and supply chain industry. Angela Jenkins, Director, Career & Technical Education at Material Handling Industry (MHI) said, “Within my 2.5 year tenure at MHI, Hanel Storage Systems has donated equipment to 40+ high school and community colleges with material handling, logistics and supply chain programs. They continue to be a true example of industry-education partnership continuing to provide resources in building the workforce of today and tomorrow.”

Jenkins also mentioned how Material Handling Industry (MHI) promotes the material handling, logistics, and supply chain industry to the younger generation in various ways. In addition to providing equipment for material handling, logistics and supply chain programs, Hanel along with other member companies provide resources and sponsorship at the Student Days Program for MHI’s MODEX and ProMat tradeshows. These tradeshows entail an average of 800+ exhibitors with a wide range of technologies, which is opened to guided exploration for students and faculty participating in the program.

Students Days is a two-day event which provides over 200 students from high schools, Community Colleges and Universities across the country the opportunity to meet with exhibitors on guided tours, learn about technology, network with industry experts and tour real world applications at local state-of-the-art facilities. Companies such as Hanel Storage Systems volunteer as an exhibitor tour location, provide a tour guide for the students and participate in target industry awareness programming for all student attendees. Hanel Storage Systems sponsors the network reception event at Student Days.  This allows student attendees to interact one-on-one with industry representatives in a more conducive environment.

Not only are companies making strides to attract young people to manufacturing through scholarships and educational donations, but some are offering internship programs. As an example, Bizerba, a leading solution provider for weighing, slicing and weigh-price-labeling technologies, offers an internship program annually. Bizerba provides interns with an overall look at their business operations, industry, and culture to the college students involved. In addition, interns are rotated through different departments to understand the entire business operation, gain practical experience and improved understanding of the business mentality. Bizerba has found this program to be mutually beneficial to introduce the next generation of workers to their industry.

Direct Recruiters, Inc. (DRI), an executive search firm specializing in Material Handling, Packaging, and Food Processing, has placed importance on encouraging young adults, specifically high school students to aim their career track towards getting jobs in these in-demand tech positions. DRI recently awarded a financial scholarship to a graduating Solon High School student planning to further his or her education towards the technical and engineering fields.  Students were also required to have at least a 3.5 GPA and write an essay explaining why they chose the technical or engineering field. Cherie Shepard, Director of Material Handling, Packaging, & Food Processing for DRI said, “We introduced the idea of a scholarship to give back to the community and to focus on those with technical aspirations. While reading the essays by the high school students, we were amazed by their experiences. These 24 applicants are the future and they have the ability to change the world.”

Another area of opportunity to introduce new talent to the Packaging, Material Handling, and Manufacturing industry is to provide flexible education options. The Packaging School, founded by Dr. Andrew Hurley, Professor of Packaging Science, Clemson University, was developed to provide specialized education to students in degree tracks outside of packaging. The Certificate of Packaging Science is an online program that breaks down the barriers to packaging education and lifts the veil on this vital and complex discipline. This is an excellent opportunity for companies to sponsor students and create apprenticeships geared towards engaging young talent.

With a challenge in the current workforce landscape in Manufacturing and Material Handling, it is so important for companies to play their part in introducing new talent to the industry and growing the number of skilled workers.

Mr. Robert Slykhuis, President & CEO, Bizerba North America Interviewed by Cherie Shepard, Direct Recruiters

rob61Cherie Shepard, Director of Packaging, Material Handling & Food Processing at Direct Recruiters interviews Robert Slykhuis, President and CEO of Bizerba North America. Mr. Slykhuis discusses his career in food processing, the industry, innovative products, leadership, and more.

You are quite accomplished. Please tell us about yourself and what attracted you to a career in the food processing industry?

I don’t think anyone really grows up hoping they can have a career in the food processing industry. In fact, most of us find our way into an industry like this based on situations that present themselvesdownload, which is what happened to me. In my early career I had opportunities in capital equipment businesses, which happened to be food processing focused, and I quickly found it to be an industry I could be successful in.

Bizerba is known for having a 150-year history of innovation. Please mention the most innovative products recently launched.

For generations, Bizerba has led through revolutionary changes in weighing, slicing and labeling. As an innovator in PC based scales and Weigh Price Labeling, we lead the market. The most recent innovations are really centered around our software solutions. With the focus on OEE, we have developed our remote management and service of equipment to the next level. Instead of just reacting to equipment downtime, we are now able to monitor and proactively service our equipment in real time and provide our customers with solutions that can really save them time and money.

What do you believe are the most important traits of a leader in today’s business world?

I am fortunate to work with a management team which shares many of the traits I feel are important to be successful. Being customer centric is a must, and while many leaders talk about putting the customer first, it really means satisfying customers at all costs. A passion for winning is in our DNA and is still the biggest motivator to get me out of bed every day. And finally, in the words of one of my managers, “when did patience become a virtue?” Being demanding and always wanting to achieve more is a necessity.

What do you think is the industry’s greatest challenge?

This is an easy one; lack of young talent. I look around the industry, our company included, and see way too many people my age. The challenge of recruiting talented, dedicated, technically qualified people, with a passion to work in our industry is of great concern.

We are facing a leadership shortage in the US and globally. What steps have you taken at Bizerba to develop future leaders?

Because of our rapid growth, we relied mainly on recruitment and mentoring to develop our managers. We are now actively engaging in more formal leadership training throughout the company to identify and advance more people from within. This is a worldwide project and is also meant to link opportunities for growth across the world.

How is the food processing equipment segment poised for growth in the US and on a global scale in 2017 and beyond?

For many years we have seen a high level of automation in Germany and this has been the basis for much of our product development in our home market. More and more we are seeing this requirement in all of our markets with companies seeking better solutions which will deliver cost savings through information and automation.

What is the biggest challenge on your plate right now?

We have grown rapidly in turnover and personnel in the past few years making it increasingly difficult to be as hands on as I used to be. While I have a great team, I still get most of my satisfaction being in front of customers and at their sites rather than being in one of my offices. Despite logging well over 100,000 miles every year I always feel like I should be more places than I can get to.

As a former Regional Sales Manager, what is your best advice to up and coming sales professionals? What does it take to succeed?

When I accepted my first territory sales job I had to look on a map to see exactly where I was moving to. When promoted to a Regional Sales Manager position I had no idea what I was in for and was tasked with managing some people almost twice my age. For every opportunity that arises which can lead to further promotion, don’t hesitate or overthink details. If you aren’t moving forward you are falling behind.

What events and tradeshows will Bizerba attend in 2017?

2017 is a big year for us overseas as two of the biggest shows which occur every three years are coming up. Euroshop and Interpack will be heavily attended by customers around the world but we are seeing a marked increase in participation from North America. Besides that, we will attend many tradeshows in North America this year including – IPPE, NRF, Expo Carnes, Promat, NRA, Process Expo and Packexpo.

cherie-shepard-square-web-shotCherie Shepard
Director of Packaging, Material Handling & Food Processing
Direct Recruiters, Inc.