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Posted 06/02/2016

Strategies to Decrease the Skills Gap and Grow Your Business – Part One

The Enterprise Minnesota’s Statewide CEO Council event in October 2015, yielded ideas that were adapted to address the skills gap faced by manufacturers. The winter edition of Enterprise Minnesota shared several valuable ideas which we thought would be appropriate to pass along to you. The following strategies represent Part One. Position manufacturing in a different way Joe Mulford, President Pine Tech Community College, has direct experience addressing the skills gap. He believes manufacturers must first understand the seven steps to position manufacturing in the right direction. One: Mulford states that firms need to understand that the problem is competitive and that manufacturing is 41st on a list of business sectors that need employees. “People who have the skill sets you’re looking for have a lot of options,” he says. “Demographics of the millennial generation are not there.” Two: Mulford reminds manufacturers of the difference between a plan, which is xx xxx, and a strategy, which is long-term and not a stop-gap. Three: He advises manufacturer to build relationships at two-year schools. Feed students pizza and talk with them, or invite them for a tour. Four: Mulford recommends manufacturers develop forward-looking strategies, beyond their region. Five: Think of alternatives. Schools don’t have the capacity to graduate enough people to meet employer’s needs; hence, the need for forward-looking strategies such as apprentice programs. Six: Provide specific tuition reimbursement and grants regarding careers manufacturers wish students to adopt. Seven: Foster an inviting reputation. Mulford says, “Good isn’t good enough.”  Your company culture and your products have to be awesome. Scan for needs and opportunities The publication also reviewed Mary Connor’s presentation. Connor is a senior member of Enterprise Minnesota’s consultant team with seasoned experience in business growth strategies. She tells manufacturers to scan their environment and plan for growth . . . because if they are not growing, they are eroding. According to Connor, firms should:
  • Include an internal scan for company knowledge, skills and abilities to evaluate management systems and efforts
  • Scan for new entrants into the industry to gauge rivalry: suppliers, buyers, products
  • Scan for competition then rate and rank it
  • Scan the environment to assess political, environmental, social and technological factors.
Connor also believes firms should pay more attention to high margin customers because it could mean “recruiting a direct sales force, pursuing new markets or maybe exporting.” She then presents five ideas for strategic planners.
  • Encourage extensive participation at the onset of the planning process to connect authorship and ownership and ensure the firm’s unilateral direction.
  • Share communication as plans are a “group process, not a spectator sport.”
  • Report progress using a method of prioritization, so the pressing matter gets resolved.
  • Empower employees and make them accountable. They need to be in lock-step.
  • Execute the strategic plan. Be resilient and remember every problem has a solution.
  Process development and continuous improvement Greg Langfield is a business growth consultant who specializes in talent development, lean transformations, and ISO quality management. He talked about problem-solving skills of an employee on the floor who knew how to troubleshoot her equipment, bring in maintenance, keep an example that showed the problem, record the lot number and connect with her manager. The leadership took the time to visit the floor where the work was being done. Langfield explains how employees need ideas to implement for daily improvements—not just the ideas but the action and results. He recommends that leaders need to see what is going on and, more importantly, engage employees in a way that does not make him/her defensive. “If you walk out there and tell them what to do, they’re not going to learn how to solve problems.” In summary Strategies for hiring for and growing a manufacturing business are often derived from common sense. Though they may sound simplistic, nevertheless they can be complex and challenging to implement. Whatever the problem, the right people make the solution easier. Talk to MPS Technical to find the right employees of all ages. Not only do we understand the needs of precision manufacturing companies, but we also have listened to and understand the talented people we have as candidates. We can offer you a great match with seamless onboarding. Let’s talk today. We have a branch located near you.