Of all the challenges we face in the PCB industry today, the most challenging by far, is staffing. It is getting near impossible to find good people. This is especially true for engineers and Quality people as well as management. Most of the good ones have either retired, changed careers, or gone to work for our suppliers. Some have even gone to work for our customers. And, the few who are left are in such high demand that they are being lured from one company to another by higher (read crazy) wages making them so expensive that they are barely affordable.
This situation leaves us but two options. Either hire from the shop floor and train, or hire from college and train.
Let’s address the former first. Although hiring young people for floor jobs is still a challenge, it is not as much of a challenge as hiring experienced professionals. There are still people coming through our doors looking for manufacturing jobs. So, the first step is to check out who you are hiring for these positions. What I recommend is a careful screening of these incoming people during the hiring process. Not necessarily for the entry level position they are applying for but rather for the potential of what they could eventually become. Look for applicants who have ambition, who talk about not wanting a job, but a career. Ask them what interests them? Ask them what they like to do in their spare time? If they have some college, ask them why they did not finish; and if they plan to complete their degree one day. Find out everything you can about them. Train your HR people and your hiring supervisors and leads to look for these same things. Hire based on potential for the future.
I’d also recommend you evaluate the people who are already working for you. If you’re in upper management, set up informal talks with these people. Get to know them. Often you were not the one to hire them or manage them, so you don’t really know them. Get to know them. Meet with them and ask them the same kind of questions you would ask new hires. These people are already on your team. They have already been exposed to the company, and the industry. By now they should have a good idea as to whether they like working in this industry, in your company. Thy might even have already decided what career path they would like to pursue, making your job that much easier.
Develop formal career paths for these individuals. By doing this you are in fact growing your own staff of the future, developing your own team of experienced professionals. Setting off on this path will also make your company a much more desirable place to work attracting more of the right people to your team.
Now let’s get to hiring young people right out of college. First you must get to know some. And the best way to do this is to offer summer paid internships. Obviously, someone has already had this idea, so you will have to compete for these paid interns. Once again, the company that has the best career plan will attract the best candidates. The good thing is that the current generation of college students has a larger percentage of people interested in making things. The Makers’ Movement has created renewed interest in manufacturing, so that many of these potential candidates are looking for manufacturing jobs, they want to work in a PCB plant!
Offering these potential candidates, the opportunity to learn about your business while learning how to make something with their hands can be very appealing. Showing them a complete career development plan, which should include a step by step timeline outlining what they can expect their end game to be is the best plan.
In all cases from new non-college hires, to hiring form the shop floor to college graduates, the most important thing is to show them the future with all its potentials. Teach them about the industry, including its rich history of being an integral part of everything from the space shuttle to computer development to SpaceX and Blue Origin to automotive. Create a sense of excitement about our industry.
And finally, show then the earning potential they can count on. Certainly, they are not going to earn Wall Street money, but then who does? But, they will have the opportunity to make very good money, by building something that is an integral part of every new electronics product invented. Yes, show them the money! And the future, and the possibilities. It will not only solve your staffing problems, it will make you a better company as well. It’s only Common Sense.