One of the most common problems modern machine shop owners everywhere face is that they can’t find qualified workers.
We heard this concern loud and clear at Manufacturing Engage 2021 and again at The MFG Meeting and The MTForecast conference. Indeed, the current labor shortage in manufacturing is top of mind for everyone in our industry.
We don’t like to mince words here at NTMA, so we’ll be blunt: for modern machine shops to overcome this challenge, they must be proactive about training their workforce.
Common Misconceptions About Training Your Workforce
If the thought of pouring time and resources into workforce development gives you pause, you aren’t alone. But your fears are likely misguided and could be holding you back from discovering your next best workers.
At NTMA, we’ve heard a few common misconceptions about workforce training that we’d like to dispel once and for all:
Misconception #1: If we train our workers, they’ll just leave.
We understand why machine shop owners have this concern. Who wants to invest in somebody, just to have them pick up and go elsewhere? But take a moment to flip that question:What if you don’t train your employees and they stick around?
You don’t want to end up with a team who never grows and evolves. The fear of losing your talent shouldn’t keep you from investing in them.
Gone are the days when large shops would invest in training their employees and smaller shops would swoop in and reap the rewards. These days, there are three options for small to medium sized shops: train your workforce and risk losing an employee, don’t train them and risk keeping mediocre employees on your payroll, or do nothing—and eventually lose your employees to a shop that offers more. The choice is clear!
Misconception #2: Experienced manufacturers are out there, and we’re just not looking hard enough.
Unfortunately, this assumption is no longer true. There has been a steady labor gap in machining for years, with no end in sight. Modern machine shops simply cannot expect to post an advertisement in a local paper and get 10 respondents like they could decades ago.
Shop owners must lead an intentional effort to attract young people in new and creative ways. This approach will likely involve persuading people who may not have previously expressed an interest in machining to change their career path—and that, of course, requires training them.
Once modern machine shop leaders get past these misconceptions, they can work toward proactive solutions to their labor challenges.
The Progressive Machine Shop’s Approach to Workforce Development
Progressive machine shops recognize that this shift requires top-down cultural change. In today’s manufacturing landscape, employees have the upper hand. Employers must step up to impress them—and to invest in their success. You may not like it, but you need to accept it as the reality of your current situation.
New hires—and existing employees—need opportunities to have exciting, hands-on experience. It’s important for everyone in the shop to buy into this philosophy. If certain employees are discouraging toward new talent or are simply looking to push their tedious work onto the new guy, they’ll stand in the way of the shop’s success.
How NTMA Can Help
For small to medium sized machine shops with limited resources, the thought of training every worker you hire, and offering ongoing training opportunities for current employees, can be daunting. Luckily, you don’t have to recreate the wheel. NTMA provides several workforce development and training opportunities for our members, including:
- NTMA-U. NTMA-U is a fully online program designed for prospective or current employees. It provides instruction for a machinist apprenticeship as well as specific incumbent worker training. If you’re already an NTMA member, you can access this program at a discounted rate!
- Advanced Manufacturing Practice & Education Development (AMPED). AMPED focuses on promotion and recruitment activities as well as directing interested parties to education and training programs across the country.
- NTMA Pre-Apprenticeship Program. This program is designed to develop entry-level skills for employment at a manufacturing company and enhance the skills set for existing employees. It helps shops attract new talent in a cost-effective and flexible manner.
If you’re wondering how to pay for workforce development, NTMA has your back there as well.
We’ve assembled a list of national, regional, and state funding opportunities to help you offset the cost of these initiatives.
The labor gap is concerning for machine shops of all sizes, but committing to training your workforce is one way to gain control of the situation. NTMA members have all the resources they need to take on this task, so if you haven’t already, join NTMA today!