Friday, July 28, 2017

Where are all the 40-50 year olds in manufacturing?

Via the weekly dose of pain that is my Google Alert for "skills gap", this article is a classic of the genre. It is a writeup of the Critical Skills Gap Awareness Summit that was held in Centralia, IL last week. There is the typical comments about how employers are finding it difficult to find employees (probably true) and then some truly top-notch bemoaning of the available workforce: 
...The Human Resources Manager at Nascote Industries Jeff Dahlquist says they seek out those who want to return home or stay in the area. He's looking at having to replace a quarter of their maintenance staff who are over 55 years of age. 
"We continue to get more and more technical in our jobs. What we're finding out from some of the young folks coming in that technology is just an extension of their arm. They learn that part of it really quick. It's the problem solving skills and the ability to get your hands dirty and willingness to get your hands dirty that is much of the key," said Dahlquist. 
The President of Jarco in Salem Tracy Timmerman says they stayed in Salem because of the company's work force, but are now looking to have replace those in their 50's and 60's who grew up in the business. 
"You don't have the farming kids out there that know how to fix anything coming off the farm and coming into industry anymore. You are starting at a lower level. It's not an insult, it's just the fact. The people coming in know how to use their iPhone and they know how to play their video games, but they don't know what size a 9/16th wrench is. It's a different world that we live in," said Timmerman. 
The lead instructor and employment counselor at the Southern Illinois Carpenters Apprenticeship Program Kenny Rose says their workforce is also getting older and he's not finding a lot of interest among younger people...
I could tee off about the crack about farming kids and their iPhones, but we'll just let that slide. Instead... where the $$%# are the 40 year olds? This is the thing about every organization that complains about having to replace 50 and 60 year old people: where are the 40 and 50 year olds that you should have been training up to replace them? Your problem didn't start last week - it started 10 years ago.

The answer, of course, is probably the result of the Great Recession and overall changes in rural economies. But week after week, I read the same articles written in the same big city and small town papers, and it's companies bemoaning the retirement of senior workers. What the heck, folks? Don't you watch the NFL draft? They draft people every year! There's a reason for that!

Sorry, folks, I got a little crazy there - hope you have a great weekend. 

12 comments:

  1. .. I got a little crazy. No you did not and I fully understand the angst that has been building over a decade! All those CEO's and managers lied to us and that is the truth. Jobs have been eliminated, CJ and get over that fact. No jobs for chemist or a coal miner. Don't you otherwise believe them. Very sorry state of affairs all over the US!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ugh...
      Yeah...that sounds about right. But then, the future is never what matters -just the last quarter.

      Delete
  2. Where are the 40 year olds? We laid them all off because we decided their experience cost too much and we could replace them with less experienced people who cost much less. And then they didn't stick around, either, for lots of reasons, so we didn't grow anyone into those roles.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Those 40-50 year-olds are working in manufacturing - in China.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I see this in my own plant. We had some great longtime employees retire over the last several years - clean-cut, responsible blue-collar guys. Management insists on hiring nothing but burger-flipper types through crappy temp agencies, and now they're shocked, shocked that our plant is now pretty much a fast-food joint with sky-high turnover.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. KT if you don't mind asking, what type of plant do you work at? It's the same way where I am currently at. The place which has about 500 people total, has about 50 different contracting companies here. The company I work for has about 70-80 employees, with a very high turnover rate. I wonder why companies want to just hire temps that won't stick around very long. In the short term that maybe the cheapest way to go, in the long term it will eventually make the company look bad or even shut it down. My mom works in manufacturing, and some customers have actually cancelled there contracts with her company due to the fact that there were alot of parts being made bad, go figure when you hire temps who sometimes don't even make it to lunch.

      Delete
    2. I work in the coatings industry. It was great when we had guys who had been operating a high-speed disperser for 30+ years, and their feedback and opinions were extremely helpful whenever I was trying to scale up a new process and adapt it from the lab to the plant.

      I agree that the current strategy is harmful to the company long-term. We might save a few dollars getting cheap temps from some fly-by-night agency, but we're probably also losing customers because of it. A longtime salesman of ours told me that he used to always assume that customer complaints were due to user error, but in the last few years, this is no longer the case.

      It's just like your mom's company here - the majority of the new temps either get fired or stop coming in after a couple of days, and once in a blue moon we find a diamond in the rough. Considering that non-degreed jobs don't pay very well today, I doubt it would be much more expensive to hire clean-cut middle-aged guys instead of fast-food types.

      Delete
    3. I can't agree enough about the importance of listening to operators, in terms of scale-up.

      Also, agree that I'm not sure temps work out for anyone, other than the middleman. I'm sure temp agencies do just fine.

      Delete
    4. The only benefit of using an agency is that in a situation where most new hires wash out in the first few days, it's easier if they're technically never on our payroll. Of course, we could just as easily make that problem go away if we paid a few more dollars for veteran manufacturing plant workers instead of young kids whose only experience is fast food or retail.

      When we hired a QC tech recently, our HR manager insisted we go through one of those awful Yoh/Aerotek/Kelly/etc type agencies (a similar one not named here). They did the initial screening for us, so we only got a handful of (poorly-fitting) resumes to choose from. We up hiring a kid fresh out of a BS program - we could have done that ourselves. It would have only taken me at most a couple of hours to skim a pile of resumes if we had posted the position publicly, and I probably could have found some good fits that the agency screener missed. The agency is now taking half of the kid's hourly billing rate, and providing very little in return.

      Delete
  5. The business practices of the farm machinery industry mean that those farm kids need computer hacking skills more than mechanical skills to fix their own equipment.

    https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/xykkkd/why-american-farmers-are-hacking-their-tractors-with-ukrainian-firmware

    ReplyDelete
  6. If their workforce is now more tech savvy, then maybe they should invest in more automated equipment that doesn't require as much wrench-turning. (One of the consequences of the Great Recession is that companies under-invested in equipment since they could pay people crap wages. That's one hypothesis being presented for the decline in worker productivity.)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Ah, the joy of being from the generation following the baby boomers.

    ReplyDelete