This post originally appeared on MAGNET’s Manufacturing Success blog and is reposted with permission.
Manufacturers: Where Will You (And the Workforce You Need) Be in Five Years?
By Mary Ann Pacelli, Senior Consultant, The Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network (MAGNET)
For nearly 30 years, MAGNET has been working with small- and mid-sized manufacturers here in Northeast Ohio. We help companies shore up quality, improve productivity, train their current workforce and develop new products.
Lately, we have focused more on growth planning—asking our clients where they want to be in three to five years.
As a workforce specialist in an engineering-focused organization, I sometimes feel people mistakenly assume that “if you build it, they will come.” Managers who focus on the bottom line often don’t consider workforce needs to be burning issues.
I’ve met some manufacturers who simply assume that they’ll be able to find the people they need when their business grows. They don’t understand in any detail the competencies required for a given manufacturing position, or how an individual with specific training can add distinct value to the manufacturing process.
But the reality is, considering the skills gap apparent today, and the time it takes develop a future pipeline of skilled talent, workforce development needs to be brought to the forefront of growth planning projects.
Imagine how terrible it would feel to wake up one day and realize you need more bodies in the plant–right now!
So, here at MAGNET, I led a team to “engineer” a process to help our small- and medium-size manufacturers deal with human resource planning for growth.
Over the past year, MAGNET has partnered with Lorain County Community College (LCCC) to design a mini-workshop series on talent planning that includes understanding workforce issues and overcoming workforce development challenges.
The outline was clear: help companies understand the crucial pieces of workforce development as they plan their business growth. Use thoughtful analysis, problem solving and activities, and what we learn from others to better understand the challenges and identify realistic solutions.
To plan for business growth, manufacturers need to define exactly who they will need to support that growth. They need to define the skills and competencies and how to acquire them. Will you develop current staff? Hire new staff? Do both? It’s time to make those plans now!
Our pilot projects yielded really encouraging results. We had both small and large manufacturers and everyone was engaged right from the beginning. The “Ah Hahs!” were immediate. Participants realized that doing the same thing they’d been doing for years would not yield new results. Small or large, everyone discovered we are all in the same boat!
Part of the take away from these programs is the importance of a “Talent Plan” that answers these questions:
- What skills and competencies will your company need over the next few years?
- Can your company grow any of those internally?
- What will you need to access from other regional resources to attain those skills and competencies that are crucial to growth?
LCCC is acting as an intermediary to communicate these future needs to other educational resources in our region. Educators and planners need to know now what skills and education will be needed in the next three to five years, so they can begin preparing the future workforce.
Manufacturers of all sizes need to plan now to align business goals with workforce needs because, quite simply, growth won’t happen without the people talent to do the work.