FBA Blog

Forging Partnerships for Workforce Development

As Manufacturing Month continues, this week I’ve had the opportunity to participate in the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) Manufacturing Institute’s Inaugural Workforce Summit in Cincinnati, OH. The Summit brought together manufacturers from many different industries and across the country to learn about innovative solutions to address today’s workforce development challenges including recruitment, retention, and training for the advancement of modern manufacturing.

In addition to defining the challenge – a highly competitive, tight labor market, work/life balance needs, demographic changes, and advancing technologies – the aim of the event was to provide ideas for “

Forging Partnerships

” to help find good people with the right skill set.

The conference acknowledged that we are not there yet, and it will take an industry-wide effort to build the manufacturing workforce base for the future.

But, there were several ideas shared for manufacturers to expand their community exposure and engagement from building relationships with students, parents, and teachers to second chance organizations, military and military transition organizations, regional workforce development organizations and any other place where communities come together. Some of the keys to success involve meeting the community where they are and understanding what’s important to them in jobs or career paths.

Both industry and companies need to disrupt the thinking about manufacturing and be able to demonstrate that it has evolved from performing a task at a station to a decision-making process that requires adaptive skills like learning agility, creative reasoning, systems thinking, analytical acumen and resilience. Workers today are attracted to company culture, to purpose-driven organizations who can communicate what they stand for. Communicating this can be as easy as taking candidates on tours during the interview process, by including plant workers in the interview process or job fairs, and exposing the community to the work environment before a candidate’s first day on the job.

And opening your doors to the community isn’t just for today’s workers, it’s expanding the pipeline down through partnerships with educational organizations that reach not only technical and vocational institutions, but high schools, middle schools, and even elementary school-aged children to show what’s possible through manufacturing. In fact, many speakers and participants in the conference suggested that middle school was the right audience for engagement when opinions begin to form about work environments and students start to explore ideas about careers.

Another important aspect of attracting a new workforce was the ability to provide flexibility, whether that’s unique shift hours or the ability to pick non-traditional benefits. One company said their newest group of employees worked with the company to secure veterinary services as a benefit for their pets.

There was a lot shared during the two full conference days. I look forward to continuing the discussion with member companies to identify how Fibre Box Association can support efforts to recruit, retain and train the box plant workforce of the future.