Need Good People? Develop Them Yourselves

There is an ever growing shortage of experienced professionals in our field these days. Whether we are talking about PCB design, fabrication or assembly, finding the right seasoned professionals is now a serious problem. Actually, more than a problem because there just are not as many as there used to be.

Many have changed careers but the most significant reason for lack of good talented people is that they have retired. They are aging out. And there is no one following in their footsteps.

Which is  the very worst part of this, we have skipped at least two generations of backfilling with younger people who were coming up through the ranks. We have just not taken the time to create a career path to those entering our ranks.

On top of that we have not done a great job at recruiting people and an even  worse job at growing our own.

Back in the day companies used to put people on career paths the minute they were hired. I know that when I joined Rockwell International’s Maine Electronics, I was, as all my young peers were, put on a career path. The folks at Rockwell assumed you were there for life. We felt like we had just enlisted in a career, not merely a job.

We were observed, mentored, and advised on what career path would be best for us. In fact, of the five people who were hired for entry positions the same week I was, four of us went on to spend the rest of our careers in the industry. Two went on to careers in PCB engineering, one in quality and well you know where I ended up.

And Rockwell was not unique in their focus on growing their own.

That was back when most companies took the time to nurture their future leaders. Much of our annual reviews were focused not only on how we were doing with our current positions, but what our hopes, dreams and plans were for the future…with the company. Our supervisors advised on what we should set our sights on, what goals to aim for and the things we should be doing to achieve those goals. There was just the basic assumption that we were going to spend the rest of our professional careers in our industry.

Now times have changed. Most companies in our industry have not taken the time to focus on the future and in developing the leadership for that future.

So now we are faced with a true dilemma. I personally know of at least nine companies who are  looking for Quality Managers, and as many if not more who are looking for experienced Engineers. Operations people from General Managers to Department Managers are at a premium…if you can find one. And then it gets even more difficult if you are looking for one without an AARP card. And if you do find that rare one, you will have to convince them to relocate and good luck with that. Especially if you want them to relocate to a place that features this product, what do you call it again? Oh yes…snow!

Except in a few rare cases the only choice we have for staffing our businesses with professionals is to grow them. Find the best candidates currently working for us already. Or hire candidates with the right basic qualifications and most importantly the ambition and the desire to dedicate their future to our industry. Not an easy task, but certainly far from impossible.

Here are three things we have to do to successfully grow our own leaders of tomorrow:

  1. Demonstrate to them that we are an important industry, one that they can be proud to be part of. An industry with a long tradition of building important world changing products from the Space Shuttle to Computers, to Electric cars to …well think about it, our industry has played a significant role in all of the major world’s innovative developments in the last seventy years, never mind where we are headed in the future. The “Internet of Things” is not going to happen without PCBs.
  2. Show them a career that can be financially rewarding. Incoming customer service people are making more than starting teachers, PCB Designers earn in the six figures, as are Engineers, Operations and Quality people. There is a bright future for the right candidates.
  3. Develop well-planned and well executed training programs for everyone we hire. Go back to the days when companies were willing to invest in their people knowing that their people were their future. From the minute someone is hired, they should be put on a career path including mentoring, training, educating, and encouraging, making sure that they understand that if they apply themselves they can create a fine future for themselves.

It’s really not that complicated if you think about it. And for obvious reasons…it’s only common sense.