How manufacturers can find the right talent

The market is extremely competitive for job seekers and recruiters in the manufacturing industry. Those looking for a satisfying position in a field that allows them to exercise their expertise in production, research and development, or even engineering, often run up against walls. Meanwhile, human resources managers in many of the more high-tech industries are left waiting for extending periods of time, hoping to locate qualified candidates.

Now that the manufacturing sector is picking up steam, many organizations have decided to add to their payrolls. A recent article from Manufacturing.net indicated roughly 600,000 jobs have been created in the industry in the span of two and a half years, culminating with the largest spike in job growth in 2013. However, the manufacturing sector has evolved since the heyday of the 1970s. The current environment is built upon and bolstered by advanced technology, epitomized with innovations like 3-D printing and robotics.

As a result, there's an employment challenge that both human resources managers and job seekers must work to overcome. Employers, especially, need to reevaluate their recruiting strategies and work toward a defined standard by which they judge applicants. Likely, it's not the same as it was 15 years ago.

Manufacturers can improve their recruiting and hiring processes by internalizing the following suggestions:

Have an ideal candidate in mind
Manufacturing is an industry that operates on slim margins, and it doesn't pay off to appeal to the lowest common denominator while bringing new talent on board.

"[A]n ideal manufacturing employee has a "gearhead" mentality for mechanics, [and] that is a curiosity for problem solving, multitasking and making things work better," explained Jeff Turner, Manufacturing.net contributor and founder of Turner Machine Company.

While technical abilities are fairly easy to develop, particularly when an employer invests in training for staff, it's more difficult to make adjustments to a worker's mentality. For instance, 52 percent of U.S. teens have minimal or no interest in pursuing a career in manufacturing, a recent survey from the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association found. Regardless of these future job seekers' technical or engineering skills, attempting to change their minds would present a greater challenge than building up the skills of candidates who offer a better cultural fit.

Look beyond the traditional talent sources
Where have manufacturers traditionally looked for new talent? In bygone eras, the first stop was the most recent high school graduating class, ThomasNet News wrote. However, modern manufacturers increasingly seek out candidates with advanced degrees and a greater depth of knowledge in information systems, engineering and computer science.

At the same time, there is an argument for some manufacturers looking for talent in vocational institutions. Of course, this depends on the organization's needs and the qualifications needed to fill a particular role. Some of the more competitive businesses have sought out partnerships with certain higher education institutions to help foster development among the future talent pool. This approach also gives manufacturers a better idea of the skills being taught in colleges and universities, and the extent to which job seekers will be able to immediately fill in desired positions.

Leverage technical recruiters
Engineering and specialty recruiters will have the resources and reach many human resources managers in manufacturing environments don't. The primary focus in many organizations is on making sure work orders are processed quickly, inventory levels are accurately tracked and supply chain logistics operate as expected.

Meanwhile, safety and compliance plays a major role in the daily activities of human resources professionals. Technical recruiters can do much of the heavy lifting involved in seeking out and screening applicants to ensure only those with the most relevant skills and experience are considered for a position.