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How to Attract Top Manufacturing Talent During the Labor Shortage

How to Attract Top Manufacturing Talent During the Labor Shortage

Has the labor shortage impacted your job shop?

Almost every shop owner I talk to right now is actively hiring and desperately trying to find skilled workers. Without adequate staffing, it’s difficult to meet customer demand and help them get their parts to market quickly.

The ability to find skilled labor ultimately determines a shop’s capacity for growth. Finding people to help do the work is a real challenge—but with the right approach, it’s not impossible.

Exercise Power to Find Talent Where We Have It

While the size of the manufacturing workforce has been steadily declining for decades, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated this issue by initiating a shift in Americans’ attitudes toward work in general.

Focused On Machining - through the labor shortage

More people are seeking career paths that support remote work, which simply isn’t an option for most manufacturing jobs. You can’t “Zoom” into the shop floor and fire up a machine from your cell phone. (Not yet, anyway!) Machinists must be physically present to do their work.

As a result of these mindset shifts, the manufacturing industry will need to compete more effectively with higher education to court the next generations of skilled workers. Ideally, we have to get in front of high schoolers and tell them that manufacturing offers a viable career path. Maybe it’s my military background, but I believe we need a robust training platform that can take someone who can’t spell “manufacturing” and turn them into a talented machinist.

But resolving the labor shortage isn’t just about waiting for the “industry” to change; it’s about taking action individually and remembering where we, as shop owners, have power. We may not have control over the systemic issues, but we can focus on the here and now. At Focused on Machining, we’re committed to attracting top talent that wants to work in manufacturing.

We don’t compete with remote positions—we compete against other shops that are looking for the same skilled workers we are. And knowing that there aren’t as many qualified candidates as we’d like out there, we strive to be a potential employee’s first pick.

Prioritize Recruiting the Right Candidates

What does recruiting the right candidates look like in action? If you’re taking the traditional routes, you’ll need to post available jobs in every online and offline forum and perhaps even work with a professional headhunter.

staying strong through the labor shortage

To ensure the ideal people apply, make your job descriptions detailed and specific. You want candidates to understand their day-to-day responsibilities just from reading the job description. Not only does this clarity help filter out people who aren’t interested in doing specific tasks—saving the time and trouble of an unnecessary interview—but it also sets proper expectations for the applicant.

Additionally, you’ll want to focus on cultural fit and make sure candidates align with your company’s mission and vision. We can’t quantify our culture’s value, but when you work here, you know how important it is. Hold out to hire people who share your passion, beliefs, and commitment to your craft.

In my shop, we prioritize cultural fit above everything else. An individual may be a talented machinist, but we won’t move forward if they aren’t aligned with our team.

How We Attract Top Manufacturing Talent

It’s easier than ever for candidates to learn about our company before they ever set foot in the shop. Social media, blog posts, and pictures on our website show applicants what we’re all about. If they show up to the interview, we know they’re interested in the job and generally attracted to our culture.

job shops - labor shortage
Focused on Machining

Once we get a candidate through the door, our strategy is to win them over with who we are and what we offer:

  1. The best shop. It’s so easy for shops to become cluttered, which makes for an unpleasant work environment. We’re obsessed with maintaining a neat work environment at all times—everything is clean, organized, and wiped down. We also have bright LED lights throughout the building, so there aren’t any dark, depressing corners.
  2. The best tech. We proudly showcase our technology-driven approach. Instead of messy stacks of paper all over the office, you’ll find dual-monitor computers at every machine. We are a digital company that uses the most up-to-date technology, including an ERP system and online quoting software, which helps us be efficient, fast, and attractive to potential candidates.
  3. The best experience. We want to create a laid-back environment as much as possible so employees can do their best work. We make sure candidates and shop visitors feel at home and comfortable with us. Shop attire is casual—jeans, sneakers, and company t-shirts and hoodies. No uniforms here!

If you’re reading this article and worry that your shop operates in a completely different way, that’s no reason to be concerned! Your method of doing business can, and will, attract the right candidates. It’s all about identifying what matters to you, leaning into your shop’s culture, and communicating who you are to potential employees.

Even if you’re still defining your company culture, remember that bringing more people into manufacturing starts simply: build a good, solid shop environment that attracts the right workforce.

When it comes down to it, most of us spend more time at work than with our families. As business leaders, we need to ensure our shops are welcoming places where our teams are happy to come to work every day. If we start with what we can control today—our workplaces and our company culture—we’re bound to succeed in bringing future generations into our incredible industry.

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Learn practical advice for filling the skills gap with modern technology, attracting top talent, and retaining your existing workforce in this roundtable discussion featuring 3 savvy shop owners.


Justin Quinn is the President of Focused on Machining, a CNC precision machining shop in Denver, Colorado.