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Saturday, Jun 3, 2023

Search for Managers Proves Difficult Task

Talk to a manufacturer these days and eventually the topic turns to the problem of finding qualified employees. That problem extends from entry-level positions to managerial or supervisor roles, a situation made worse when a long-time worker retires, leaving a gap of not only a body but in the skills that employee brought to a company. “You can’t replace the 30 years of internal knowledge that an employee has given you,” said Fabian Grijalva, the human resources director at wristband manufacturer Precision Dynamics. To keep up a supply of qualified employees for advanced positions, companies turn to training both inside and outside the workplace. People in these advanced positions not only need skills to deal with workers below them, but technical training as well to work with sophisticated equipment. At Precision Dynamics in San Fernando, employee training to groom future managers involves managerial skills training, different computer applications, and lean manufacturing initiatives. “We’ve even done Spanish for managers,” Grijalva said. The “sharper” employees at DeKing Screw Products in Chatsworth will move up in the shop and be sent off-site for training through Pierce College, said President Geno DeVandry. But DeVandry concedes a lack of success with getting managers from within the company’s ranks and that he faces a tough choice over how to make a promotion. “I don’t know whether to take the educated person and bring him into the shop and teach them machining or take the person with a machining background and teach them to be a manager,” DeVandry said. As more communication is done electronically, those technical skills are essential to a manager’s role. Use of those skills can be applied to scheduling, job routing, and accounting systems. But National Tooling and Machining Association Chairman Mike Mittler cautioned that the most competent person skills-wise may lack other skills, such as interacting and working with other people. “It’s not always a guarantee that your best technician is going to be your best management level person,” said Mittler. A lack of a qualified pool of job applicants has plagued the manufacturing industry for years. The 2005 Skills Gap Survey by the National Association of Manufacturers found that 81 percent of the respondents faced a moderate to severe shortage of qualified workers. Additionally 90 percent of respondents indicated a moderate to severe shortage of skilled production employees, a figure that did not vary significantly when controlling for company size, industry segment or region. The whys behind this struggle for manufacturers are varied. A lack of knowledge about the industry coupled with a public perception of shrinking job opportunities has led to a lack of interest in young people to enter that field. While in Europe where the trades are seen as a viable career, the ethic in the United States guides students to continue their education at the college level. “You’ll have to look far and wide to find a parent who says I want my kid to grow up to be a skilled machinist,” said Robert Gardner, of the Association for Manufacturing Technology. Efforts are being made at a local level to meet the needs of manufacturers for trained employees. Los Angeles Valley College recently wrapped up a two-year, $743,000 state training grant for Valley manufacturers and has applied for a federal grant to provide advanced training for employees. The two-year grant was intended to serve 233 people and the college ended up training triple that amount, said Lennie Ciufo, director of the job training. The new grant plans to serve even more workers by upgrading their skills to take on managerial roles. Movement up the company ladder will in turn create open entry-level positions. “We are creating a pipeline to establish new hiring opportunities within the companies that wanted it,” Ciufo said. No matter how useful training programs may be during flush times, when profits fall and a company is squeezed financially those programs often get the axe. Such moves can be shortsighted thinking. “The progressive shops train in the good times and bad times because they know they will need to fill that pipeline,” Mittler said. “They know that baby boomer is going to retire and he’s going to need to be replaced.”

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