Yes, this problem continues to challenge us as we head into 2021. I know of companies that have twenty or thirty job openings right now and are having a hard time finding people to apply, never mind filling them.
One would think that with unemployment the way it is these days people would be storming our doors. But that is simply not the case. There are a number of reasons for this.
First let’s take a look at the obvious, but temporary pandemic reasons.
Because of the pandemic people are staying home to stay safe. They are staying home because they have little kids, and their daycare is closed. They are staying home because they have school aged kids, and those kids are being schooled virtually. They are taking care of elderly and susceptible relatives. Or just because with boosts in unemployment and Covid benefits, it just does not make financial sense to risk coming to work right now.
But these are all temporary challenges and they will soon go away.
Regardless, we had hiring problems prior to the pandemic and we will still have them when the pandemic is over.
It’s time for a new way of hiring people, it’s time to do things differently.
I am talking exclusively about our industry, since some of the other newer companies in younger industries have been using some of these ideas for years and they have been successful.
- Start looking at colleges and trade schools. One of the results of the pandemic is that recent graduates are having a hard time finding a position, especially in their field. But rest assured they are out there looking. I know that most of us have done this in the past, to no avail. But things are different now. There are young people out there looking for work. You might just be their solution.
- Don’t offer them a job, offer them a career. Almost all of us entered this industry by accident. None of us told our folks that we wanted to build circuit boards when we grew up (unless one of our parents was in the business; and then they did not want us to build circuits boards). This was not a normal career path. But the fact is some of us, many of us, have had very good, rewarding, and lucrative careers in this industry, no matter how we got here. I know people who started in plating who now have their own companies, I know people who started in drilling who are now very well thought of engineers, we all know them. And besides, we all make a pretty good living in this industry as well.
- Develop an inviting package, illustrating the future a person can have in our industry. Think about this: your normal customer service/ inside salesperson in our industry, with only a high school diploma often makes more than a teacher with a four year, hundred-thousand-dollar, college degree. And the growth opportunities for both position and financial rewards are much greater in our industry than they are in teaching (don’t get me wrong, teachers are great and important but not everyone can be a teacher).
- Our work is important. People outside our industry don’t even know what PCBs are. They don’t know what they do or how important they are. We have a lot to be proud of. Our products have saved the world, they have taken men and women, (shout out to our own Jessica Meir from Caribou Maine!) to space. Our products are at the cutting edge of every major electronics product built from video games to Fitbit to I-pads to autonomous vehicles. Will somebody please tell somebody about this!
- Offer education and training. Besides offering a career, offer training for that career. Show them how they can become a lead, a supervisor, a process, or quality engineer or best of all, a sales and marketing professional.
- Pay your own people to help you find good people. Offer them real money if they can bring you a qualified candidate that you can hire. We already do some of this, but not enough. We need to do more.
- Don’t be afraid to hire from other countries. I read recently that over forty percent of the people working in Silicon Valley Tech companies are from other countries working here on visas (Thank God). Some companies like Google and Apple, have cadres of immigration lawyers working on getting the right talented people into this country and working for them. We can do the same. I spent a year trying to help a young man with a PHD in Materials Engineering (our PCB material engineering!) a job in our industry and no one would touch him because he was all the way from Toronto! He ended up at this little company you might have heard of called Intel…in San Jose USA. Their gain was our loss.
- And finally get the IPC – our own trade organization – to promote our industry. They should be developing a plan to show what a great and important product the PCB is. They should be developing programs to attract the right people. They should be going into the schools and showing soon to be graduates what a great opportunity and a great future they can have in our industry. The IPC needs to step it up when it comes to helping us get the right people to join our industry. If not our own trade organization then who?
It’s only common sense.