The Skills Gap and the Future of Manufacturing

Join Matt Sonnhalter for a Marketing Minute and learn about how the current skills gap affects the future of manufacturing and how Sonnhalter and other organizations are getting involved to help. To view other videos from Sonnhalter, visit our YouTube channel here and let us know if there's a B2T marketing topic you'd like us to cover.read more >

From MAGNET: Addressing the Skills Gap and Improving the Bottom Line

Each month we'll be featuring a blog post from our friends at MAGNET (Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network). MAGNET's mission is to support, educate and champion manufacturing in Ohio with the goal of transforming the region’s economy into a powerful, global player. You can visit MAGNET online at manufacturingsuccess.org. This post originally appeared on MAGNET's  Manufacturing Success blog and is reposted with permission. Addressing the Skills Gap and Improving the Bottom Line The skills gap in the manufacturing workforce continues to be a challenge. Employers constantly bemoan their inability to get qualified workers, educators convene employers to better understand what they are looking for and develop new programs, and job seekers experience frustration when they are not selected due to lack of skills. It is time to start looking more closely at potential solutions, the role that employers can play, and the value to employers. Recently reports of successful strategies are starting to emerge. The lessons learned from these successes should be explored for replication and duplication. How do you define and measure success in a way that resonates with all the stakeholders?  Typically, successful placement in vacant positions is one clear measure. Another is assessing the Economic Impact of the placement on the company and measures that affect its bottom line. One example of a project that did both, is a training program managed by MAGNET in 2011.  The project was designed to determine if the attainment of skill certifications matched to employer requirements would result in a pool of candidates to fill current or projected vacancies in entry-level positions. Four Ohio sites were selected. The local team was headed by an educational provider and partnered with the local One-Stop that assisted with recruitment of participants.  Selected employers were involved from the beginning. They committed to providing input in the content and…read more >

Mind the Gap: Making kids aware of manufacturing jobs

  By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter One of the things that always struck me about manufacturers is they generally don’t realize how cool their jobs really are. And I get why. You’ve been doing this your whole life, it pays the bills and it has its disappointments, headaches and setbacks. But manufacturing made the modern world we live in possible. And the stuff you see as routine, through anyone else’s eyes is really, really cool. Don’t believe me? Ask a bunch of middle school kids in Pennsylvania. 12223read more >

The Needle Begins to Move on the Skilled Trades Gap

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter Wait, Did You Feel That? The needle began to move on the skilled trades gap. Don’t look now, but the problem you’ve known about for a generation, the lack of people coming into the skilled trades, is finally going mainstream. It’s subtle, but change is beginning to show. First there are the local advocates, who have been talking about the problem for years. You know them, they’re in your local Union Hall, Welding School, or in the rapidly dwindling number of High School Vo-Tech programs. Or they’re part of the increasingly aging workforce itself, all too aware that there are more of them retiring than entering the workforce, and hanging around looking for someone to step up. And there are now countless local efforts. Here in Northeast Ohio, the Cuyahoga Community College launched a mobile workforce training center. Tri-C customizes it with virtual welders, CNC machines or other demos as the employer or school needs. Also in the Cleveland area, Lincoln Electric, whose Carl Peters is an advocate for training program development, recently capped off the framing of their new, $30 million welding technology center project. Nationally the news is just as encouraging. Mike Rowe, who has capitalized on his TV fame to promote the trades through his foundation, is getting ready to take applications for 2017 scholarships. He’s also a great social media follow, and recently testified before congress. Even more promising, This Old House, the venerable PBS show, launched Generation Next a partnership with MikeRoweWORKS designed to highlight the jobs available in the skilled trades and destigmatize these jobs for today’s youth. NPR’s excellent Marketplace program recently had several in-depth features on training skilled workers, produced by senior education correspondent Amy Scott. Plus, there are the national groups dedicated to the trades,…read more >

“Right Skills Now” Provides Fast-Track Training for Tradesmen

The biggest issue I hear from both contractors and manufacturers is lack of work isn't the issue, but lack of qualified people to do it is. Right Skills Now may not be the end all but it's a model that can work for both on a regional basis. I know one of Mike Rowe's passion is training the professional tradesman and this is a step in the right direction.read more >

The Crisis Isn’t Looming Anymore… It’s Here.

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter The mainstream media continues to wake up to the skills gap in the trades, as this recent report from CBS Sunday Morning proves. The report was spurred by the lack of skilled tradespeople specifically surrounding hurricane clean up, however it continued to shed light on the issue. A large part of increased recognition is the result of two people featured in the piece: Norm Abram of This Old House and Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs. Both, as individuals and as part of their shows, these two have been “fighting the good fight" on the skills gap. Fighting against media bias, educational neglect and pop culture stereotypes of the trades. Make sure to check out the last part of the video though, as the progress Lehigh Career & Technical Institute has made acts as an inspiring end to the continuing story. Want to get involved? Keep reading.read more >

What’s Holding US Manufacturing Back?

Today we have a post from Andrea Olsen. Andrea started her career in the tech start-up world, and has brought much of that innovative thinking to her work as the CEO of Prag’madik, an operational strategy consultancy, specializing in the industrial and manufacturing markets. What's Holding US Manufacturing Back? There has been an ongoing national conversation about bringing manufacturing back to the United States. The government, states, educators, and organizations have been pushing a resurgence through, addressing many of the roadblocks facing these organizations, including: lack of skilled labor, decreased sales, advancing lean manufacturing, integrating additive manufacturing, robotics, IoT and Big Data. The middle-market manufacturers - primarily in the Midwest, in the range of $50-$500m in revenues, employing 10-800 people - face a unique set of challenges. While the advancement of things like 3D printing and robotics will undoubtedly change the manufacturing landscape, these manufacturers face much more basic challenges to compete - and more accurately - survive the next 3-5 years. This isn't about the "skills gap," or "robots taking jobs," or "offshoring" or even "regulation burdens." Those challenges are further downstream for these manufacturers. Today's issues are much more fundamental. The advancements in digital technologies, communications platforms, and simply the Internet, have dramatically impacted business operations and overall competitiveness. The "blocking-and-tackling" of things like: embracing change, utilizing technology platforms, digitizing information and fostering an innovative culture, are the true essentials for US middle-manufacturing growth. Here's a short list of those essentials: 12788read more >

How to Score Big This Manufacturing Day

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter It may seem like Manufacturing Day (first Friday of October) is still far off on the horizon, but the time to plan is now. With schools getting ready to take their summer breaks, you should contact them now in order to make sure your company is ready to highlight the great careers available in modern manufacturing and the trades. And while the official Manufacturing Day site has great tools to help you plan and promote your event, a panicked phone call I got on Friday gave me another idea to share. Fortunately the panicked call wasn’t from a client, and wasn’t an actual “emergency.” Nope, it was my introduction to the latest craze sweeping schools across the country: Fidget Spinners 12519read more >

Are you a storyteller?

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter Brand/Content Marketing and all the other buzzwords are irrelevant. I just finished reading a great article from the Virgin website. But first an apology on behalf of the entire marketing industry... We’re sorry for all the buzzwords. Really. For years you’ve heard “content marketing” and “be your brand” and many other latest fads bandied about in meetings. In fact, at one previous employer, we had bingo sheets we’d take into the conference room to see how quickly we could achieve “product/end user integration,” “ROI” or anything else “at the end of the day.” But really, all those words boil down to what the article highlights: Be a Storyteller 12459read more >

The Working Man’s Holiday

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter As any salesman, engineer or manufacturer will tell you: marketing has it rough. Done laughing? Well, here at Sonnhalter, we added a new twist to our vacation plan. Our team members now get one extra day of vacation, no matter their time with the company. The catch? You have to take it on a B2T (Business-to-Trade) holiday. What’s that? As you’ve probably noticed from your social media feed, almost every day has some “official” holiday designation. National Left-Hander’s Day (August 13), National Look Up at the Sky Day (April 14), Cookie Cutter Week (December 1-7). But what you might not know is there are an abundance of days dedicated to the skilled trades, like: 11981read more >

Thousands of vocational programs, many ways to connect

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter More than a year ago, we released an extensive database of thousands of vocational education programs across the country. We recently updated that list, adding about 1,000 new programs, separating them out by state tabs and standardizing the descriptions to make it even easier to search, sort and use. Why would a marketing communications firm make such a resource? We hope the tool will bridge the gap between manufacturers and educational programs. The database serves as a helpful tool for companies looking to implement more grassroots campaigns to recruit the next generation of professional tradesmen. There are a myriad of ways to take advantage of a tool like our database. I'd love to name a thousand ways to use it (given enough time and coffee I probably could too!) but I'll leave you with a few suggestions of how to make our work, work for you. Fill the Talent Pipeline 12075read more >

Why You Should Have a Trade/Vocational School Marketing Plan

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman, Sonnhalter With the shortage of skilled workers today, the trade/vocational schools are making a comeback and there's a great opportunity for you to do some grass-roots marketing to future tradesmen. Many leading brands come to mind (Ridgid and Klein Tools) that have been built by using these schools as a starting point to get their tools in the hands of future users. 10410read more >

Seven Things to Do with a Database of U.S. Vocational Education Programs

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter We did the legwork to identify more than 20,000 vocational programs at schools all across the United States, so that you don’t have to. All you have to do is download it. But once you’ve downloaded the Excel spreadsheet, what can you do with it? Here are seven different ways you can use our database: Build your network. Locate the programs in your area, and connect with the folks that run them. You never know when having a connection in those training programs could be beneficial. Become a resource for them. Whether it’s offering to send someone from your organization to speak to a class or volunteering to host a facility tour, the next generation of tradespeople won’t be able to be trained properly without support from the industry. Hire their students. Use the programs in your area as places to recruit skilled employees, co-ops, interns or apprentices. Supply them. If you offer a product or service that’s of use in a training program, supply these programs either through donations of your products or heavily discounted equipment, students will be more likely to use the equipment they're familiar with from school once they get into the workforce. This grassroots strategy has long-term benefits; an ongoing relationship with a vo-ed program will provide exposure for you for each new class. Learn them. Get to know the next generation better. Millennials as a generation seem to frighten marketers and managers, but there’s no reason to be scared. Millennials are bright, technologically inclined and learn quickly; the sooner you engage with this young talent, the better. Get your distributors involved. Your distribution network can amplify your efforts to combat the skills gap. They can reach into areas far from your headquarters and help train the next generation.…read more >

Fabtech Expo Recap

Rachel Kerstetter, PR Engineer, Sonnhalter I had the opportunity to attend the Fabtech Expo in Atlanta last week. It was my second year at the show and I am continually impressed by the immensity of this industry. The expo brought together more than 27,000 attendees and 1,400 exhibitors covering more than 500,000 square feet of the Georgia World Congress Center. Fabtech kicked off on Veterans Day and it couldn't have been more fitting since Workshops for Warriors was selected as the recipient of the Fabtech Cares campaign. Workshops for Warriors is a wonderful organization that I had the pleasure of writing about last year in Production Machining magazine. Workshops for Warriors, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to training, certifying, and placing veterans in manufacturing careers. It's no secret that manufacturers are looking for new sources of talent. At the same time, many former members of our armed forces are looking for work. Workshops for Warriors combines these efforts, giving American veterans and wounded warriors the skills U.S. manufacturing employers need. Veterans who are transitioning back to civilian life provide a vastly untapped talent pool of hardworking and disciplined talent for the manufacturing industry. Fabtech hosted a panel on the first day of the show on bridging the skills gap with veterans. You can see the progress of the fundraiser (and donate) here. Reshoring of manufacturing was definitely another popular topic. The Day One keynote actually came from Cindi Marsilgio, the VP for U.S. Manufacturing at Wal-Mart. The company has pledged to buy $250 billion of products made in the USA over ten years to encourage the creation of U.S. jobs. (You can read more about the keynote and Day One highlights on Fabtech's blog.) When walking the show and helping out in various booths, I heard the question, "Where are your products made?" Many…read more >

Education, recruiting and the trades – a small step can make a big difference

Today we have a guest post from Candace Roulo, senior editor at Contractor magazine.   Since I have been writing for CONTRACTOR magazine, I just had my six-year anniversary in September, education and recruiting in the trades are two issues that continue to be prevalent. No matter what trade show or convention I attend, education and training are key topics that are discussed. Since education and recruiting are of utmost importance to the key associations and industry-specific manufacturers, it only makes sense that industry professionals are starting to rally behind the issues surrounding these topics. You may have already heard this news… With so many people planning to retire soon from the plumbing, hydronic and HVAC industries, there are not enough people in the trade pipeline to fill all of the future available positions. During the next 10 years, the country will experience a projected 11% growth in jobs across the board, and the HVACR and plumbing industries are expected to grow by 21%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the HVACR industry is expected to need an additional 55,900 trained technicians; the plumbing industry, an additional 82,300. You just have to wonder how we will find all these industry professionals, especially since the trades are still looked down upon by so many people. To me, this is the crux of the problem, so the industry needs to change the stereotype. Of course, I understand that a tradesman/tradeswoman can have a lucrative career and have the opportunity to run his/her own business if he/she chooses to. He or she can also decide after years of hands-on work to go into a corporate environment – many of the people I meet that represent manufacturers are just that – a plumber or HVAC technician that decided to change up…read more >

An Employer’s Back to School List

Miles Free, Technical Director of the Precision Machined Products Association (PMPA), has been a contributor before to this audience and he and I share the same enthusiasm about giving young people other options than a 4 -year college degree. Miles sheds some current insights into the issue.read more >

Why Have Marketing in Manufacturing?

Today we have a guest post from Andrea Olson. Industrial organizations rely heavily on a direct, distribution or dealer sales force for growth. Many of these companies have built themselves from the ground-up through street smarts, sweat, and hustle. With many sales build upon long-term relationships, why does a manufacturer need marketing? Aside from creating the brochures, maintaining the website and coordinating trade shows, how can marketing help grow the business? It's a frequent misconception that many manufacturing leaders have a hard time getting their minds around. The function of marketing has degraded in recent years, with the advent of "do-it-yourself" tools, allowing the tactical nuts-and-bolts of marketing implementation to be done by more junior staff. In addition, many mid-market manufacturers really never had the need to utilize marketing 50, 60 or 70 years ago - having built the business on a unique invention (at the time), penetrating an under-served market, or establishing a contract with a few large OEMs. The problem today is that things have changed. Most notably: 12088read more >

From MAGNET: Find New Talent

Each month we’ll be featuring a blog post from our friends at MAGNET (Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network). MAGNET’s mission is to support, educate and champion manufacturing in Ohio with the goal of transforming the region’s economy into a powerful, global player. You can visit MAGNET online at manufacturingsuccess.org. Employers: Find New Talent with MAGNET’s Summer Work-Based Learning Experiences Program Now is the time for Northeast Ohio manufacturers to step up and become part of the skills-gap solution by taking part in a unique summer work-force development program coordinated by MAGNET. MAGNET’s 2013 Work-Based Learning Experiences program (WBLE) offers work-based learning experiences to high-school students who will enter their senior year next fall.  Students from Mahoning County Career Technical Center, Polaris Career Center and Lorain County Joint Vocational School are participating in this “earn and learn” program. This program allows Northeast Ohio manufacturers to be part of the solution and help attract and engage young people in engineering and manufacturing careers. Manufacturers can contact me, Judith Crocker, by phone (216.432.5386) or email to participate. Prep: One- and Two-Day Shadowing Events In addition, in preparation for the summer WBLE program, MAGNET is currently seeking companies that will welcome a student to shadow an employee for  just one or two days, to learn about the company’s products or services. This will give them the opportunity to see for themselves how what they are studying in school relates to the “real world” experience of a manufacturer. It is our hope that employers who participate in the “shadowing” program will see the student’s potential and go on to offer that student a chance to participate in the summer WBLE program. About MAGNET’s WBLE Program Participating employers provide up to 150 hours of work and learning experiences related to the students’ programs of study. These include: Electronics & Alternative Energy Welding…read more >