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5 Recruiting Strategies to Overcome the Manufacturing Labor Shortage

The manufacturing labor shortage is real. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) reports that the manufacturing industry lost 1.4 million jobs in early 2020, and while many of those jobs have returned, hundreds of thousands remain unfilled. 

According to NAM’s Q3 2022 Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey, 76% of manufacturers reported that attracting and retaining a quality workforce is among their top challenges. 

You need recruiting strategies that will help you identify qualified, responsive and available workers in your area—without wasting time chasing those who aren’t. Start with these five strategies to target the right workers. 

5 Smarter Strategies for Manufacturing Recruitment

We’ve focused on five common problems that manufacturing companies face in recruiting workers amid the current manufacturing labor shortage and the manufacturing skills gap—and five solutions to overcome those challenges. 

1. Use Social Media to Present a Clear Picture of Your Business

The public has an inaccurate perception of manufacturing work. Many people don’t realize how much manufacturing has changed over the last few decades. They may still think of manufacturing plants as grimy, crowded places packed with people who couldn’t find better work elsewhere—who are now tied to an assembly line for 40 years with no opportunities for advancement. 

While those views were probably grounded in truth a century ago, times have changed. Today’s manufacturing facilities are immaculate, spacious and automated to a tremendous degree. Manufacturing workers are highly skilled and technologically savvy. While they enjoy stable, rewarding work now, they’re also building specialized job skills that can afford them considerable career mobility in the future. 

Over the last five years, the manufacturing industry has made significant headway in correcting those outdated perceptions. According to the 2022 Manufacturing Perception Study from Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, 40% of respondents are now likely to encourage their children or other youth to pursue a career in manufacturing, up from just 27% in 2017. 

So, how do you help spread the message? Marketing is one avenue. Consider talking with your company’s marketing department about ways to reach potential candidates and their families where they are: on social media. Videos demonstrating what a day in the life of your workers is like make for educational and compelling content. Profile the real people who work for you and show off their skills and the opportunities they’ve realized through working in manufacturing. Social media gives companies an unprecedented opportunity to show what happens behind the scenes —so don’t skimp on it.  

2. Emphasize How Your Company Is Making a Difference in the World

Millennial and Gen Z workers want to do work that aligns with their values. Too much work today is disconnected from the real world—and younger generations aren’t willing to trade the best years of their lives for a company that doesn’t share their values about what’s important. 

In one of the few bright sides to the COVID-19 pandemic, the challenges of producing necessary medical equipment and personal protective gear showed the world that manufacturing workers are essential to a functioning society. As your teams recruit candidates, ensure they underscore the ways that your business meets critical needs and makes a positive impact on society.

3. Recruit for Diversity – Especially Among Often Untapped Demographics

Diversity, equity and inclusion are increasingly important to consumers, stakeholders and workers. Starting positions in manufacturing offer a level playing field—anyone who’s ready to work hard and learn on the job can succeed, regardless of what they look like, how far they went in school, or what they’ve done before. Veterans and women are two underrepresented demographics in manufacturing jobs. 

Looking for ways to diversify your workforce immediately expands your team’s pool of available candidates. Make sure to emphasize diversity and inclusion in your job postings and promotions and remove barriers to employment by ensuring that your hiring criteria aren’t needlessly restrictive. 

4. Create Training Programs to Appeal to Students

Some candidates lack the technical skills your factory positions require. The manufacturing skills gap presents a serious problem for manufacturers. Training programs lower the barrier to entry for the next generation of workers, like students currently in high school or college. They may be interested in manufacturing but unsure of its viability given their lack of experience.

While untrained workers can succeed in manufacturing if they’re willing to learn new skills, it takes an extended investment in their education. That means starting early and working locally—which ties in with our next point. 

5. Focus on Local Recruiting and Resources

Manufacturing companies need workers on site. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, few jobs were remote, and few workers expected them to be. And while there are plenty of benefits to working in manufacturing, the ability to work remotely just isn’t one of them. 

You need people who can come to your facility to work. That means you need people who live in your community, or at least within a reasonable commuting distance. 

In the short term, your team can tailor their recruiting efforts to identify skilled candidates who live in reasonable proximity to your facility. In the longer term, consider: 

The manufacturing labor shortage is real—but there are real steps you can take to identify and recruit excellent candidates.

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