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Frontline Initiatives Aim to Plug Workforce Gaps

The fabricated metal products industry continues to report growth in new orders, as well as employment — even with hiring challenges. Learn about efforts to assist you in filling open positions.

Posted: April 18, 2022

In November 2021, NAM and The Manufacturing Institute held a Creators Wanted event at Vermeer Corp. in Pella, Iowa. Creators Wanted is the manufacturing industry’s largest campaign to build the workforce of tomorrow. Discussing opportunities with students is Jay Timmons, president and CEO, NAM. Photo by David Bohrer/NAM
Hypertherm’s Spark Something Great program is one of many initiatives helping to close the skills gap by supporting the next generation of welders and metal fabricators.

As you’ll discover when exploring the following pages for the latest advancements in cutting systems and finishing systems, manufacturers are constantly developing and tweaking products that will improve your job shop’s productivity, particularly in a tight labor market. In the Q1 2022 NAM Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey, 89.4% of respondents had unfilled positions within their companies for which they were struggling to find qualified applicants.

Metal fabricators and metalworkers will be glad to know there are a variety of training programs and scholarship initiatives in place to support the training of the next generation of manufacturing workers. Hypertherm, a U.S.-based manufacturer of industrial cutting systems and software, will provide 12 North American schools with a Powermax45 XP air plasma system, as well as in-person training, as part of its Spark Something Great grant program. This is the program’s eighth year and has awarded systems to 76 schools so far.

In another effort, cash prizes totaling $1.25 million will be awarded to 20 of the best U.S. public high school skilled trades teachers and their programs. The funds will be granted by the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools program, which has made awards of $4.7 million since 2017. The program is part of The Smidt Foundation, established by Harbor Freight Tools owner and founder Eric Smidt. “The United States is currently facing down an urgent nationwide shortage of skilled trades workers,” said Danny Corwin, executive director of the program. “Public high school skilled trades teachers and their students will be a critical part of the solution to this urgent problem. The prize honors and rewards these outstanding teachers and their programs.”

Associations and Their Networks

Metal fabricating and manufacturing-related associations are also underway with efforts to assist in filling open jobs. “At Marion Manufacturing, we used METALFORM EDU heavily in 2020,” said Doug Johnson, president of Marion Manufacturing Co., Cheshire, Conn. Johnson was addressing a recent event of the Precision Metalforming Association where he was introduced as the incoming chairman. His company has benefited from PMA’s on-demand online training programming, METALFORM EDU. “We purchased software licenses for every employee,” Johnson said. “The star performers here really want to learn so we want to provide them with those opportunities to grow and take on more responsibilities.

“We will continue to promote to our young people that manufacturing provides great career opportunities,” Johnson continued. “If you ask the young people working at Marion Manufacturing, they will tell you that manufacturing is cool and rewarding. We make it that way, and other company leaders must do the same.”

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) spearheads the Creators Wanted effort; and its associated organization, The Manufacturing Institute, has launched the “35×30” Initiative. “Although job growth last year rose at the best pace since 1994, and wage growth is now at a 40-year high, the survey (Q1 2022 NAM Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey) shows workforce shortages are still a major challenge,” said Jay Timmons, president and CEO of NAM. “That’s why the NAM and The Manufacturing Institute continue leading our industry-wide Creators Wanted campaign — to inspire, educate and empower the manufacturing workforce of today and tomorrow.”

The Manufacturing Institute launched the “35×30” Initiative with the goal of adding 500,000 women to the manufacturing workforce by 2030. The initiative would increase women’s representation in manufacturing from 29% today to 35%. When the initiative was announced in March, the manufacturing sector reported more than 800,000 job openings for nine consecutive months. Studies show that manufacturers can close the skills gap by 50% by bringing 10% more women into the industry. The initiative’s initial sponsorship of $250,000 from Arconic Foundation will support programs and activities in 2022 and beyond.

By tapping into these workforce initiatives your job shop will attract qualified workers, making the most of the advancements in today’s cutting systems, finishing systems and other metal industry processes.

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