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.

Women in Business Part II

By Cherie Shepard, Director of Packaging & Material Handling, DRI

We are half way through our first year of our “Professional Women’s Organization” at DRI and DCA!

Recently, I wrote Part I about how our women’s group gives us a chance to bond and grow personally and professionally and the benefits derived.  Part II is below and about how a company can actually derive benefits as well.

Let’s explore the benefits a women’s organization has to a company.

  1. Recruiting new female employees– As someone who talks to candidates and hiring managers every day I hear from both sides “tell me about the culture” or “we have a great culture”. From a woman’s perspective, hearing about the company’s Women’s Organization and how it can benefit them as an individual is a strong indication of a forward thinking company. Let’s face it, we all know we spend a significant amount of time with our coworkers. Knowing that there is a provision for connection before walking in the door is a big selling point.
  1. Retaining female employees – There is an expense to replacing employees. Traditionally, women leave organizations at a faster rate than men. By instilling a women’s professional network companies have found that the gender gap in retention is closing. Women’s groups offer professional and personal development. It is an internal resource for education which may be available outside of a work setting but not without an expense to the individual.
  1. Developing Top Talent – Teaching employees to become great leaders and offering opportunities to further their professional and personal development offers an additional resource for developing future leaders in an organization. Women’s organizations within companies offer insight into communication skills, confidence building techniques, and negotiation tactics. These skills can translate into promoting employees within an organization rather than having to seek outside your company.

I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on what you are experiencing in your professional women’s groups and how it is effecting your company.

Women in Business, Part I

Women in Business Part 1
By Cherie Shepard, Director of Packaging & Material Handling, DRI

Direct Recruiters and Direct Consulting Associates recently created a Women’s Organization. While the idea of establishing a women’s group may sound very 1970’s; beginning our Women’s Group is far from exchanging recipes, diets or “how to’s” of child rearing. We didn’t begin this organization to divide ourselves from the men in our company (no they are not included). We did it to give us a chance to bond and grow personally and professionally. We want to encourage our employees to feel a part of our company and to develop the skills to speak in a public open format which can be a short fall of women in business. We each bring a unique set of skills, life events and experiences that offer new ideas and discussions.

When starting a women’s group it is important to establish some ground rules and plans of action to make it successful.

1) Have a plan of action at each meeting

We are extremely fortunate. We have a culture where there is a good deal of comradery together with a lot of fun. For this reason we know we had to have an agenda for our meetings. We want to make sure we stay on task and on time. Let’s face it we all have jobs to do and having a meeting where we just keep circling around no specific idea is a time stealer. Prior to our meeting we send an article, video or podcast to the group to be viewed ahead of time. This gives us a poignant conversation piece to bring to the discussion.

2) Meetings are not an open forum to complain about your company or management

Any time a group of employees gets together, whether it is over lunch or drinks, the topic of conversation can move toward the negative. Our goal is if there is a situation that is frustrating for one or more of us we discuss it; having our conversations become negative is counterproductive to the success of our organization. Situations that arise can produce suggestions to fix a problem; they also open a non-judgmental forum and help bring clarity to an experience.

3) Make it fun

Just because we are at work and we are professionals we still want to enjoy ourselves. Most of us are not golfers or basketball players. Shocking but true. So we don’t have the same bonding times that these activities offer. So we try to schedule our meetings around other things. Some ideas are a picnic, a wine tasting and a painting party for starters. Even something as simple as walking during our lunch break for some physical activity enables us to get together and connect.

What ideas do you have for a group like this in your organization?

(Stay tuned for Part 2 on how this type of group can benefit your company)