Larry Taitel, president of Convertech, Inc., and Dr. John W. Kennedy, CEO of NJMEP, are remaining outspoken advocates of State-supported educational opportunities for students interested in machining in New Jersey, home to 11,000 manufacturers. The two recently addressed the latest findings of the ASQ 2016 Manufacturing Outlook Survey, which reported that an increasing number of manufacturers now struggle to find qualified applicants for open positions.
“The long-term threat to manufacturing is real and has even become part of our current presidential candidates’ conversations,” said Taitel. “I was not surprised to read that 51 percent of respondents to the ASQ survey said that lack of qualified applicants is their greatest hurdle when hiring for vacant positions. This response marked a drastic 44 percent increase over 2011, when ASQ last surveyed manufacturers about hiring challenges. According to the more recent data, 25 percent of respondents said their biggest challenge is the time it takes to hire a new employee. At Convertech, we have marked this trend for years. In 2008, we spent the equivalent of an average employee’s full year’s salary just seeking qualified machinists. Year over year, the lack of qualified applicants grows worse, and the cause is clear: Our schools ceased offering basic hands-on skills training. They closed their metal workshops and vo-tech programs, reducing the opportunities that young people have when considering their career paths.“I continue to meet with fellow manufacturers in our State who echo these experiences,” said Taitel. “Manufacturers can neither sit back and allow this to happen nor wait for someone else to fix the problem. We have to fix it ourselves by imparting to our elected officials and school’s curriculum decision makers how important skills training is to our students, our manufacturers, and our State. We’re looking for New Jersey to support apprenticeships and get us back on track for everyone’s sake.”“We’ve been hearing that ‘manufacturing is dead’ in the U.S. for over three decades,” said Kennedy. “The big problem is that statement was never even close to being true. Yes, it has changed, evolved, even become more efficient, but never has it been close to dead. In fact, the U.S. Manufacturing Industry remains rated as having the highest quality in the world, and taken by itself it would be the 9th largest economy in the world. That isn’t dead.“What has this misinformation brought to this key sector?” Kennedy asked. “I’d say a lack of respect, and an even larger shortage of qualified individuals following this career path. There are no more Industrial Arts (Shop) Programs in our ‘regular’ schools, and there are additional gaps in our engineering and high-tech programs. Now, as industries are poised for another growth spurt, companies cannot find qualified people.
“The average pay is more than other industries,” Kennedy continued. “Job security is positive. The chance for growth is solid. What is the answer? No single answer will solve a situation driven by 30+ years of a ‘premature death knell’. What we need is a multi-faceted plan that puts in place a structure that works on all levels, and that includes expanding current efforts in technical training and apprenticeships to assist in filling today’s needs. It also needs to include the understanding that all education is great, and much of it is vocational in nature. It all leads to a better, more fulfilling life.
“So it’s up to us,” Kennedy continued. “Those of us who have spent our lives in this amazing industry must make sure that we pass the word along to all who will listen to help ensure our future. That includes leaving our comfort zone and letting those that represent us know that we are here to stay as an active, productive part of our communities.”
Taitel said he plans to begin meeting with New Jersey elected officials in early 2016 to address the issue. “The more voices addressing this problem, the sooner we can begin to see changes,” he said.
Respondents to the ASQ 2016 Manufacturing Outlook Survey represent a multitude of industries. The ASQ 2016 Manufacturing Outlook survey was conducted online in November as part of World Quality Month and more than 900 manufacturing professionals responded to the survey.