The Covid-19 pandemic has had far reaching impacts, not the least of which is the resulting economic recovery and the desperate lack of people willing to work in manufacturing. Currently, 14 percent of Ontarians work in manufacturing. There are many theories as to why this has happened –the flexibility and appeal of work from home options that are not available in manufacturing, the increase in wages in the service sector or the lack of immigration due to Covid-19 restrictions. Knowing the reason is important, but it does not help find a solution.
More than ever before, we are competing for a scarce supply of labour and manufacturing has an image problem. Dark, dirty factories, long hours and too much overtime. Gone are the days when people queued for hours for good paying (mostly union), automotive jobs. Gone are the advertisements that suggested a solid middle-class life, with home ownership and family vacations.
In the face of this bleak news, what can we as HR professionals do to attract talent.
• Improve diversity -Women make up just 29 per cent of Ontario’s manufacturing workforce, a number that has barely shifted in 40 years (Western News - Blueprint highlights gender-parity push in manufacturing (westernu.ca)). Companies need to focus on recruitment efforts that appeal to a female workforce and highlight the advantages of manufacturing work (e.g. steady shifts, company benefits)
• Career Mapping –When recruiting for general labour, shift the focus to the opportunity for internal growth and promotion. Working on the production floor can be the first step in a great career and new hires should be aware from the start what opportunities are available.
"Gone are the days when people queued for hours for good paying (mostly union), automotive jobs"
• Get into high schools –often and early. In Canada, 50.4 percent of adults had a university or college degree in 2016 (The Daily — Education in Canada: Key results from the 2016 Census (statcan.gc.ca)). However, that means that another 50 percent do not. These are the students (and their parents) who you need to attract. If your workplace insurance scheme allows it, provide trial opportunities for students to see jobs or work to develop co-op placements. Educate students on the wages –in some manufacturing sectors, an entry level position provides nearly the same annual salary as a first junior position requiring a college diploma and/or university degree.
• Use social media –for traditional industries, grasping and utilizing the power of social media for recruiting can be a challenge. However, it is essential in the new world. We have changed to texting potential recruits and have seen our responses sky rocket. Something as simple as adding a QR code to our job advertisements has resulted in more applicants. Instagram and Twitter are also great ways to recruit.
• Promote sustainability and green initiatives –major manufacturers across Ontario are moving towards green technologies and many have published corporate sustainability targets. Young people today want to work for a company that cares.
Undoubtedly, the competition for labour is fierce and many aspects of manufacturing cannot be changed. However, there are so many positives to working in manufacturing and we need to be better sales people.