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Don’t Place an Ad — Instead Present a Path to Accomplish a Dream

Attracting and retaining workers can be a challenging task. One place to start is by engaging students and their parents.

Posted: January 27, 2022

Terry Iverson is the president and CEO of Iverson & Co., a sales and service organization offering solutions such as: turnkeys on new milling, turning and grinding machines, as well was training and after the sale support. He is also the founder of ChampionNow! Email:


by Terry Iverson

One of the best kept secrets in the United States is the career track the manufacturing sector has to offer. Manufacturing companies need to become advocates and push made in America/buy made in America goods, as well as the exciting careers manufacturing has to offer. The industry can no longer think and act the same regarding workforce. Manufacturers need to take initiative to thrive.

For instance, ChampionNow!, a 501(c)(3), is an example of an initiative that provides manufacturers with both the information and the tools they need to do things differently when it comes to workforce development. The organization advocates for manufacturing careers and offers products and a connection to other like-minded companies to tout the importance and relevance of manufacturing careers in the United States. Champion is an acronym: Change How American Manufacturing’s Perceived In Our Nation.

Take Action

The advantages and opportunities of the modern manufacturing sector must be shared with educators, parents and students. Years ago, many of the shop programs at high schools were eliminated. This paralleled parents’ beliefs that the only path to success was a four-year college degree.

Jobs today increasingly require skills that may not come with a conventional diploma. We need to encourage the return to instruction in the trades.

Project Lead the Way is one organization that changes how students learn, combining their knowledge with project-based learning. Many schools are starting up technical programs again and we need to support their efforts. Companies can become involved in these programs by offering to speak and/or donating equipment or materials to be used in classes.

We need to make it acceptable that not everyone needs to earn a four-year degree and should explore technical schools and training. We need a shift in our culture and it needs to start with parents and students.

Listed below are ways to spread the word about the advantages of manufacturing:

  • Conduct MFG Day (an initiative of the National Association of Manufacturers) tours of your plants — open your shop’s doors and invite educators, parents, children and the community in. This is an opportunity to show all that you have to offer and will change perceptions about modern manufacturing.
  • Offer internships within your company by collaborating with your local high schools. Internships are an excellent vehicle for young people to experience the excitement of manufacturing firsthand.
  • Become involved on an advisory board at your local high school and advise them as to what the market needs are. This will also give you the ability to work with young people in your immediate area who just may become your workforce of tomorrow.
  • Mentor young people in your community, at your church, and so forth.
  • Reach out to military veterans who are looking for new careers. Veterans have learned many life skills, can adapt quickly, and are exciting potential applicants for your open manufacturing positions.
  • Do your research and share what you learn with school and community leaders, parents and students about the benefits of careers in modern manufacturing. There are videos and books available that promote manufacturing career paths. For example, ChampionNow! allows you to co-brand its book, Finding America’s Greatest Champion. In the book there are examples of best practices of those who have done things differently to build their future workforces.

Workforce Training

Once manufacturing careers grab the attention of young people, you need to train them. The U.S. manufacturing sector needs to return to apprenticeships — even if that means modifying the model slightly to one that might possibly combine an internship within it. How about APPR“INTERN”SHIP?

It is also a secret to most that some manufacturers are willing to send their employees for specific skill-based training for the jobs for which they are applying. Your future workforce consists of digital natives — meet them where they are when it comes to training methods. There are many online industrial training opportunities, especially now thanks to the virtual pivot we embraced due to the pandemic. ChampionNow! offers an introductory CNC Rocks Virtual Manufacturing Camp to introduce people to manufacturing concepts.

Workforce Retention

Once your shop attracts workers, how do you retain them? One of the best sources of new ideas in the HR realm comes from Nicole Martin, author of The Talent Emergency. To empower both new employees and existing employees consider changing your company’s internal culture. There are several ways to do that:

  • If you do not have a profit-sharing program — consider one.
  • If you do not have an internal training program — consider one.
  • If you do not pay for night classes – consider paying for them, with the caveat of a minimum grade for full tuition reimbursement.
  • If you have not offered flex hours — consider offering them.
  • Recognize that the next generation of employees wants different things from their careers. Manufacturers should be agile and ready to react to their needs.
  • Incentivize/encourage overtime.
  • Encourage mentoring of younger employees by tenured workers. Most want to share the legacy knowledge they have.

Each employer has an opportunity to help dreams become realities. We have the careers to offer the next generation, who are looking for a match for a relevant and efficient path to financial independence. Our companies need to change how we fill job openings, as demonstrated in this article. The futures of our children and our companies depend on making the changes.

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