The shift from blue collar to white collar in manufacturing

It's no secret that technology has reshaped the world we live in today. There are a number of gadgets and tools that have been designed with the goal of making people's lives easier. This can be seen in the advancement of items such as televisions and computers, and the rapid adoption of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. However, the consumer sector isn't the only one benefiting from these changes. The industrial sector is taking advantage of technology as well. Nowhere is this truer than manufacturing.

Previously, these jobs almost always had the blue collar stigma attached to them. This traditionally meant that these jobs were only for people considered to be laborers. However, the advent of automation into the sector has changed everything. Once computer technology was introduced to boost company efficiency and streamline operations, the manufacturing industry was changed forever. Now, instead of organizations looking for people with a demonstrated ability of being skilled in the area of manual labor, these companies are on the hunt for people with technical prowess instead.

Manufacturing recruiters need to understand this shift in order to make their sourcing efforts easier and provide value to their clients.

Schools preparing students for manufacturing careers
Most recruiters know how difficult it can be to source for candidates in the wake of the Great Recession. When the economy essentially hit rock bottom, older workers retired and their younger counterparts sought employment in different industries. Now that things have improved significantly and companies are once again looking to add to their payrolls, businesses are enlisting the help of supplemental staffing agencies to identify and deliver potential employees, albeit with much different skillset requirements.

This is why many educational institutions at both the high school and college levels are beginning to place a priority on training the next generation of manufacturing workers. According to the Orange County Register, engineering students are being taught programming languages such as Java and Python, in addition to computer software design. The advent of 3D printing technologies are forcing teachers to give instruction in computer-assisted design, all in an effort to push students toward careers in manufacturing, the backbone of any economy.

"I think for the first time in 20 years, we are seeing money coming down to enhance our [career technical education] programs," Glen Stevenson, a professor at Saddleback College who teaches CAD and mechanical drafting, told the newspaper. "3D printing is going to cause changes in the way things are done. Students need to understand the capabilities of additive manufacturing and what they can do with it."

In Wisconsin, a similar educational shift is being seen as well. According to a Beaver Dam Daily Citizen report, the Manufacturing Business Alliance of greater Dodge County was created two years ago to help close the skills gap that currently exists in the state's manufacturing sector. The initiative recently reached record membership levels in that 24-month span.

"This alliance was created out of need," Apache Stainless Equipment Corporation's Manager of Human Resources, Pam Korth, told the newspaper. "The labor pool for skilled trades is too small in the area, which is saturated with manufacturers. We can't grow our companies by hiring away labor from each other. We needed to increase the pool."

Similar activities such as what is being done in Wisconsin and California are happening all over the country. Manufacturing and engineering recruiters need to mine students in the high school and collegiate ranks, while also using organizations that offer training in skilled trades as a candidate pool resource.

Of course, there will be times when clients will want individuals that already possess a certain level of demonstrated expertise and experience. However, a shift in mindset will need to occur on the part of these organizations in order to make the efforts of the supplemental staffing agency more effective.