Workforce Demographics: a Common Theme at HOUSTEX 2019

Posted By: Greg Surtman, workforce education strategist, and Sue Mueller, workforce development specialist, Tooling U-SME on April 16, 2019

Workforce Demographics: a Common Theme at HOUSTEX 2019

Changing workforce demographics was a hot topic and a common theme during two educational presentations we participated in at the recent HOUSTEX manufacturing event. One was a seminar called “The Onboarding Challenge” and the other was a panel discussion on “Competing for Top Talent During a Labor Shortage.”

In the case of onboarding, workforce demographics is garnering much attention because many baby boomers have already left or are getting ready to leave the workforce, leading to a skills gap. At the same time, younger workers with dramatically different mindsets and working styles are coming on board. As these younger workers enter the hiring pool, employers such as CDI Energy Products — which participated in the onboarding presentation — are discovering that meeting the training needs of multiple generations takes thoughtful planning and new conversations. Not only do manufacturers need to implement new learning and development programs to align with the way these generations learn, they need to rethink policies to attract and retain younger workers while capturing knowledge from their most senior employees. According to Heather Wehking, CDI’s training and development manager, workforce training must be integrated into a company. Working with Tooling U-SME, she found that companies can build high performers and future leaders by focusing on industry best practices that help younger workers, and all employees, feel valued from the moment they walk in the door.

Closing the skills gap

Workforce demographics and the related skills gap also came into play during the HOUSTEX panel discussion on competing for top talent. The good news? Industry output is up, the economy is strong, consumers have a renewed interest in domestically produced products, and experts forecast even greater growth in 2019. The bad news? Manufacturing companies can’t find enough skilled workers to fill the open positions they have now, let alone the estimated 1.96 million new manufacturing jobs that will be created by 2028. With millions of manufacturing workers expected to retire in the next few years, millennials and members of Generation Z (born 1997-2012) will need to fill these positions.

But first, we need to get them interested in manufacturing as a career.

Building a talent pipeline

At HOUSTEX, panelists from G&A Partners — a top HR outsourcing company and professional employer organization — Curbco LLC, and Tooling U-SME discussed how one of the keys to sparking young people’s interest in today’s manufacturing careers is creating partnerships between manufacturing stakeholders, such as companies and educational institutions. To build a manufacturing talent pipeline, we need to start letting kids know about manufacturing careers as early as the sixth, seventh and eighth grades. We need to let them know that manufacturing jobs are cleaner, more high-tech and higher-paying than they used to be, and include careers in such high-buzz fields as robotics, additive manufacturing, and mechatronics. Plus, we need to play up the fact that apprenticeships have changed, and they’re on the rise. No longer are apprenticeships strictly for four years, and sponsored solely by manufacturers; these days, they can be as short as 18 months, and sponsored by colleges or organizations as well as companies. No wonder they’re on the rise.

For more information on addressing the challenges and opportunities with changing workforce demographics, call us at 866.706.8665.

For more information about workforce demographics, read That Next Generation: Achieving Results, Retention and Reasonable Expectations.

Tags: "CDI Energy Products", Curbco, "G&A Partners", "Generation Z", HOUSTEX, millennials, "skills gap", "talent pipeline", "Tooling U-SME", "workforce demographics"