At The FABRICATOR's Leadership Summit/6th annual Metal Matters, which just wrapped up late last week, I sat in on a discussion about ways to find good employees. The consensus among the 10 or so fabricators in this breakout session was that they are more than willing to train the right person for a skilled fabricating position. That person needs only show a commitment to showing up and willingness to learn the skills for the job.
Of course, you don't sit in a room for two hours discussing this subject matter if everything is working out smoothly. Even with high unemployment rates and a willingness to hire people without the needed skill sets, many of these fabricators are struggling to fill open positions.
These are some of the more interesting points that jumped out at me during the free-wheeling discussion:
- Show them the money. Emily DeRocco, president, Manufacturing Institute, said that her organization's studies show that the newest generation entering the work force is really concerned about one thing: money. That's a blessing and a curse. The good news is that a young person can start earning some cash after only months of vocational training. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the bottom 10 percent of welders in the U.S. earn an annual wage of $23,420. That's not going to buy a villa on the Mediterranean, but it probably will get that 20-year-old into a new Camaro. The bad news is that a generation so attuned to monetary earnings likely will jump to another job for the slightest increase in pay, even as little as $0.25 per hour, according to one of the fabricators in attendance. When that occurs to a small fabricator that has invested time and money in training a young employee, company management questions whether it's worth the hassle of providing such training.
- Newspaper advertising doesn't work. It pains me to hear that, but none of the fabricators said they had success finding employees through classified advertising. Someone suggested working directly with work force development boards. Another offered up Craigslist as a much more affordable means of reaching people, especially younger workers. Employee referral programs are a good way to attract candidates for jobs, but as many of the fabricators reported, that well eventually dries up; after all, most of us can barely stand to be in the same room with our relatives for one day during the holiday season.
- Don't think about offering a job, but rather a career path. Honestly, entry-level pay in metal fabricating jobs is not something that inspires one to consider a career in manufacturing. However, if you look at the average wages as reported by the 2010 Salary/Wage & Benefit Survey from the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, you learn that a CNC equipment programmer has an average salary of $49,643 in an area population of less than 50,000 and $39,782 in an area population of more than 500,000. That's the kind of pay that is available to entry-level employees if they make a career and a commitment to manufacturing. If companies commit to showing their employees what is possible and how they can reach it, they might enjoy more long-term relationships with those individuals.
This type of frank and helpful conversation is not unique at this event. If you are interested in participating, mark Feb. 29-March 2, 2012, on your calendars. The FABRICATOR's Leadership Summit/7th annual Metal Matters moves to Scottsdale, Ariz., next year.