The Demand for a Skilled Workforce
Ready for Lift Off?
When was the last time you stood in your back yard, extended both your arms in a horizontal plain, and then zoomed around like you were flying? How about this one: you climbed into a large cardboard box pretending to blast off from earth to travel to mars in a search for alien life forms? Been awhile huh? Remember how exciting it was to use our imaginations with common house hold items to go on adventures? I believe our imagination that we so readily used as children creates ‘’vision’’ in its most infant stages.
Just how important is vision to our lives? What if the Wright Brothers would have never perfected or followed through on their vision for flight? History would clearly tell us that the Wright Brothers perfected their craft by building their mechanical skills, working for years on printing presses, bicycles, motors and various types of machines. Their foundation of mechanical skills was the very backbone of developing air travel.
Last April, our Engineering and Sales team attended the Aerospace and Aviation in Indiana Conference hosted by IBJ. After listening to various speakers of the industry, one glaring challenge exists for our Aerospace, Aviation and Manufacturing companies in America. Where is the next generation of skilled trade workers going to come from to replace retirees? The encouraging news is the support and vision of thriving businesses along with support from our State Administration.
To go over this challenge further I will share some of the highlighted points from the conference, as well as encourage and ask some thought provoking questions to share with your team. Vision, without it, our future will not take off.
Demand for Skilled Trade Workers
When I was a senior in high school, my guidance counselor summoned me to her office. She was interested in why I was attending a local vocational school along with my normal high school education. “What is machine trades exactly?” she asked. Now I will spare you the details, but my explanation earned me Student of the Month honors for that month. Why do we need machinists, precision grinding technicians, repair mechanics, and so on? Because these professions keep our economy, industries and advancements flying. Having a vision to reproduce the skilled workforce is vital for our industry.
In an article by Hayleigh Colombo for IBJ, Jacques Vanier, President of Alcoa, states that the industry needs people who can keep equipment running, ensure it is maintained, and keep producing a high-quality product. The article reiterates that a major challenge in our industry is a large number of people are retiring and young people lacking to step up to fill these positions. Read the whole article here: http://www.ibj.com/articles/58098-workforce-challenges-a-drag-on-aviation-aerospace-industries
Here at IPG, we take pride in the fact that the majority of our workforce has been employed here, on average of over seventeen years, which adds up in the experience and skills category. We still lack in cross training areas, but when we say we have the best machinists around, that is exactly what we mean. As a company, we strive to perform internal audits and look for areas to strengthen our skilled grinding technicians.
Impact of Aerospace and Aviation on Indiana Economy
Ever heard the jingle, “There’s more than corn in Indiana?” Well there is: Airplanes, military- defense manufacturing, and space ships. When I was the kid in the back yard flying around, I had no idea what the word economy meant. When you apply vision to your career, life, and so on, you begin to pay attention to the future a little bit more. When you begin to bear the responsibility of providing for a family, then you will start paying more attention to the direction of your career. Will I have a career until I retire? Is there a future in what I am currently doing with my life? Does the company I work for have a plan for the future?
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was one of the key-note speakers at the Aerospace and Aviation Conference we attended. Governor Pence brought forth some encouraging news for Hoosiers and our country. Companies like GE Aviation, Alcoa, Rolls-Royce, and Raytheon plan to invest more than $900 million and create more than 1,200 new Hoosier jobs in coming years. Governor Pence also made mention of the 980-acre Purdue Research Park Aerospace District that Purdue University just recently broke ground on. Check out the full article: http://wishtv.com/2016/04/14/gov-pence-discusses-innovation-at-ins-aviation-aerospace-industry/
Indiana Precision Grinding has been in existence since April 15, 1975. Our scope of business has evolved over the past forty one years to specializing in dynamic precision grinding of thermal spray coatings applied to Aerospace parts. With over 180 customers that we service, the majority of those are Hoosier owned and operated companies. We not only service our customers, but we strive to build partnerships with our customers to insure a future.
Who’s got next?
The Indianapolis Colts use a slogan when one of the starters gets injured and will be out for an indefinite period of time. Next man up! Most businesses recognize when they need to hire someone, finding the right prospects that agree with company values, vision, and a willingness to apply the effort to gain desired skills is the challenge. The right person in fewer terms. Let’s face it, today’s generation is intrigued by social media, the latest gaming systems and smart devices. I personally do not know of many millennials interested in picking up a wrench or working on machines, let alone standing in front of one. The growing challenge for many companies in our industry is how to land the next man up.
In order to communicate to a culture, we must learn to speak the language. Just like pretending to fly as a kid was cool, we must speak that message to the next generation. My oldest son came to work with me one day. Staring at a blue print, I could tell that to him it looked confusing, and boring. Once I took a moment to explain the dynamics of the drawing, showed him the machine it would be processed in, and then explained the purpose of the part, the print took on a different meaning to him. In the above mentioned news articles, you will find a statement made by Freddie Sarhan, vice president of Praxair Surface Technologies, stating, “We need to make sure we advertise the things we do in our aerospace or aviation companies.”
So not only do we seek customers to sell our services to, we now have the task of recruiting a work force to sell our vision, values and opportunities to. Indiana Precision Grinding is a family- owned/operated company. Several of our employees are related and were referred to IPG by their family. That employment process will only go so far. Looking for the right values, potential, and work ethic can become challenging for us when needing to hire. However, we strive to sell ourselves to potential candidates based off of our company vision and values.
Bring it in for a Landing…
In conclusion, how do we address these challenges in our industry? Let’s start by agreeing that every business has similarities in their procedures, but exhibit differences as well. What may work for IPG may not work for your company. Let’s take a moment to bring out some strategic questions for your next management team meeting:
1. How is our company investing in our current and future workforce skill set?
How much time and revenue do we invest in our training systems? Putting together training processes and documentation systems will raise confidence, accountability, and purpose in your workforce. If employees see the reward of their efforts then productivity more than likely will increase.
2. What is our company doing to increase training, education and collaboration with vocational skills?
“Organizations will perform how they are organized.” –Andy Stanley
Look for vocational schools to partner with to give back to the community as well as to recruit future employees who will have a solid foundation. Making training systems simple and clear will greatly booster the moral of your company.
3. What is our company doing to attract millennials?
One of the greatest struggles that I have observed in my short time on this planet is the struggle of communication and understanding between generations. We cannot expect the younger generation to think and conduct themselves like we do. After all, the previous generation did train the younger generation. Great organizations embrace change and look to strengthen their employees. A term I like to use quite often is, “same principle, different method.” When going fishing, we utilize the same principle from previous generations: rod, reel and bait. However, you may now use a different method in changing what bait you use. I would encourage you to check the Growing Leaders blog by Dr. Tim Elmore. You will find it very beneficial in understanding generational differences, as well as how to work together more efficiently. http://growingleaders.com/blog/
These three questions will provoke us to examine our vision. Are we ready for lift off?