Manufacturing Through the Eyes of Human Resources, Recruitment and New Hire Training

By Brian Kingston, MC Assembly – Courtesy of SMT Magazine

Perhaps more important than the technology and tools a manufacturing company has are its people. People are what make a company truly great and the process of recruiting talented, skilled, dedicated employees and training them properly for success is an important aspect of any manufacturing company.

At MC Assembly, we are very involved in the local community and make an emphasis on volunteering and helping with CareerOneStop, American Job Center or what we locally call CareerSource Brevard. This active involvement allows us to network with other professionals and meet a local candidate pool that one will not be able to find on job boards or through a recruiting agency. We also participate in internship programs in hopes the intern will succeed and we will be able to hire them full time.

Some other ways we find candidates include employee referral programs, partnering with the local community, participating in job fairs, and working with and volunteering at the local high school and vocational school. Community outreach initiatives are also very important when finding new candidates.

In today’s market, it’s not only about what the candidate can contribute to the company, but what can the company contribute to the candidate: “Do you allow room for advancement?” “How is your on-the-job training program?” “Do you have tuition reimbursement?” “Do you contribute or volunteer with a cause the candidate is passionate about?” All these methods are very important in finding people.

Right now, one of the biggest challenges facing manufacturing companies is recruiting millennial talent. There is an outdated mentality that with manufacturing, you do not have autonomy, that it’s challenging work and there’s no opportunity for individualism or advancement. At MC Assembly, we counter that by giving employees an opportunity to voice their thoughts and take ownership over their work, by voicing how they think things should or shouldn’t be done. It really gives us an upper hand honing in on our manufacturing process and making it the best we can. It’s critical for our future that we be able to bring in younger talent. We’ve also introduced a lot of incentives like tuition reimbursement and on the job training that can help us attract and retain that talent.

The use of social media sounds cliché, but in manufacturing it is critical to reach millennial talent. Recent statistics show that over 85% of millennials have smartphones and touch them more than 45 times per day. Five out of six millennials connect with companies via social media networks. If your company is not active and does not invest in social media today, you are simply not visible to this generation and missing out on this talent pipeline.

Another challenge facing many manufacturing companies today is finding candidates with the right skill sets to fill specific jobs. There is a real gap of skilled manufacturing talent, largely because many schools have not been teaching manufacturing skills for nearly two decades.

About 20 years ago, many high school just stopped teaching manufacturing-related skills. There was no more wood shop, no more automotive, no more welding or electronics classes. Students were convinced that they needed to go to college for advanced degrees and manufacturing was no longer looked at as a long-term career. This all happened around the time of the dotcom boom. The new trend started to shift towards internet and computer-related jobs and teaching.

Today, we find ourselves with a serious skill gap; in some places, finding skilled soldering and SMT operators can present a real challenge. Overall, manufacturing finds some of the largest gaps in welding, CNC machining and electronics.

According to the Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, over the next 10 years we will need to fill 3.5 million manufacturing jobs – the current skills gap will result in 2 million of those jobs going unfilled.

Recently, we have seen a huge push to start teaching manufacturing at the high school level again with a dedicated focus on STEM. Seeing this need, MC Assembly has participated in a local effort called Advancing in Manufacturing (AIM), created chemical plant operator
by CareerSource Brevard. Funded by a two-year DOL National Emergency Grant, the program is making efforts to expand training and early education opportunities in the Brevard area to address immediate employment skills needs and build a pipeline of talent for the future.

I serve as a volunteer member of the AIM committee. Over the last two years we’ve demonstrated effective results in expanding training, educational and internship opportunities. We believe that our approach is a logical and effective solution to help address the skills gap in our area and serves as a model for a successful sector strategy. Through the AIM internship initiative, MC Assembly will host two high school seniors this summer. This is a great way for students to learn about the great benefits a manufacturing career offers, and it’s also a way for us to give back and become a bigger part of our community.

At the same time, we have developed a robust new hire training program. On the first day, we start new hires with a safety and quality training. This allows employees to learn safety tips, who to call, where to go and how to work in a safe way. It also stresses the most important aspect to our business, that quality as our number one priority. This happens well before an employee walks on to the production floor and works on our customers’ products. On-the-job training follows the safety and quality training. New hires are identified on the production floor with a different colored smock and are assigned a mentor.

Once the supervisor and mentor believe the OTJ is complete and the employee is ready to be on their own our quality manager will assess their skill and what they learned and confirm the employees is ready to perform the job on their own. This process is very involved and usually takes 1-2 weeks, this helps new hire get up to speed quickly and have the confidence they are able to complete their assigned tasks.

The skills we look for in candidates are the “soft skills,” which are essential. Every resume you look at will tell you whether a candidate qualifies for the job based on their work skills, work experience and education. The one variable that cannot be determined from reading a resume are the soft skills. Communication, problem solving, adaptability, teamwork, self-motivation and emotional intelligence are just as important, if not more, than the technical skills to do the job. The six soft skills are hard to identify in an interview setting, behavior based interview questions are asked during our interview process to help identify these skills in each candidate. I believe you should always hire character and train skill.

This article was originally published in the May 2017 issue of SMT Magazine.

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