By Jessica LaGrossa
The skills gap and its threat to the future of manufacturing isn’t news—it’s a challenge that the industry has been navigating for several years now. But as the extensive number of manufacturing employees reach retirement, the threat becomes a tangible problem resulting in less and less skilled associates to fill those leftover openings. In fact, concern over the widening skills gap in the U.S. is so great that Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tim Kaine (D-VA), co-chairs of the Senate Career and Technical Education Caucus, introduced in January legislation that would expand Pell Grant eligibility to students enrolled in short-term job training programs. The Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act would open access to training for the nearly 6 million vacant jobs that are a direct result of the extreme shortage of qualified associates. The proposed bill would ensure that working people and low income students could afford essential training to qualify for available jobs and help America’s businesses hire the talent they need.
But what happens in the interim? It’s a question that Employment Solutions is answering through their skilled manufacturing division, providing skilled trade, professional, and technical recruiting.
Development of the Division
For the past 22 years, Employment Solutions has offered recruiting services spanning the manufacturing spectrum. Yet over the past four years, the company has further honed its niche to fulfill the growing and urgent needs of its client base to recruit skilled positions as well as general manufacturing positions.
“Not only do we have the capacity and capability to do so, but we’ve gone a whole other step and dedicated an entire division to only recruit for skilled and professional positions within the manufacturing industry,” explained Shad Sleeth, vice president. “We are truly experts in that arena.” Sarah Nelson, Senior Recruiter, attributed the creation of the division to the company’s exceptionally talented recruiters who could “take it to the next level.”
As orders began to come in for positions such as machinists, welders, technicians and managers, Nelson and her colleagues filled them, and they quickly recognized that the requests for skilled positions was only going to gain momentum.
“We operate a bit differently,” shared senior recruiter Anila Kapp. “We are headhunters—we have the experience, skills, and tools to proactively source highly qualified talent.”
“We realized this division was clearly needed in the market and our success has confirmed it,” added Nelson. “Now, we are seeing it in action and growing the division more and more each year…it’s important for us to move forward.”
The skilled manufacturing division is led by Nelson and Kapp who, combined, have 20 years of recruiting experience. Their backgrounds successfully translate into the manufacturing sector —as Kapp explained, “We spend all day, every day sourcing and placing highly skilled manufacturing associates. Many of our placements come from candidate referrals.”
Nelson explained that as it becomes increasingly more difficult to find specialized manufacturing skill sets, clients can no longer just place an ad and have potential employees come to them.
“Instead, we have to establish relationships with clients and the prospective employees we locate for them,” she said. “I love building relationships with clients and helping them fulfill their hiring needs. I genuinely care about my clients and in finding the right person for the right job.”
Kapp added that when it comes to locating associates with specialized skill sets, it is a cyclical experience.
“There are a limited number of candidates with a specialized skill in a geographic area,” she said. “So I may recall someone that I spoke to two months ago for a job I’m working on today—it’s good to build relationships, because you don’t know what you may need in the future.”
The division operates in full cycle recruiting, and Nelson and Kapp both manage all of their own accounts.
While Nelson explained that she and Kapp each have different recruiting styles, she assured that they come together well. In addition, the duo boasts a large bandwidth, allowing each to successfully find exactly what their clients are looking for.
“We are trying to close the gap by finding those candidates that are really hard to find,” explained Nelson. “And I want clients to have a great experience working with our department and to feel confident in putting their trust in us to fill all of their higher level needs.”
The division places over 200 skilled associates annually which, according to Sleeth, is due to a broad range and understanding of the market. “We know how to attract the candidates, and we are fishing in a much larger ocean,” he added.
And of the 225 employees placed last year for a total of 75 clients, 25% were direct hire while an impressive 75% were long-term contracts. The average salary for these employees was $50,000.
These numbers produced client and employee satisfaction scores ranking in the top 2% of the staffing industry. The division reports that over 90% of clients place repeat orders.
With the success it’s seen in such a short period of time, ES has high hopes for its skilled manufacturing division. “We’d like to see it growing at 25-50% a year,” shared Sleeth. “We have the capacity and our team is really that good.”
Nelson is on the same page, adding that she projects double digit growth.
“I want to see us become the premiere, go-to skilled, technical, and professional recruiting division in CO,” she said, and she’s not stopping there. Nelson then expects to take the division national. “When someone, anywhere, says they need a technician, I want us to be who they think of,” she declared.
Kapp agreed that the potential and opportunity are both present for exceptional growth.
“We have a huge drive and the talent to make this specific department successful,” she said. “We fill our jobs, and it is important for potential clients to know that. Yes, these orders are, over all, harder to fill; but, we get the job done. And as more and more clients experience that, we will grow.”