5 things we learned about manufacturing during the New North Summit

Posted on Dec 3, 2014 :: Insight on Business, Web Exclusive.
Sean P. Johnson
Posted by of Insight Publications
New North manufacturers will hire in the first quarter Insight Publications

More than half of the manufacturers in the New North are planning to hire in the first quarter of 2015.

The bottom line: Manufacturing companies are ready to hire – they just don’t know if the workers are out there.

So say the results of the Northeast Wisconsin 2015 Manufacturing Vitality Index, a partnership between the NEW Manufacturing Alliance and the UW-Oshkosh Business Success Center. The alliance presented the findings during the 10th annual New North Summit, held Dec. 2 at the Blue Harbor Resort in Sheboygan.

What it said:

  1. The economic climate is getting milder. In fact, 96 percent of companies expect their overall health to be healthy or quite healthy in the next year.
  2. Other industries will benefit from the nice weather. Thirty percent of manufacturers plan to expand facilities in 2015, which should be a boon to the construction industry. Similarly, 66 percent of manufacturers plan to modernize their plants with new equipment, impacting the industries that make the equipment. That modernization, in turn, may require employees with better skill sets, thus impacting technical college enrollment.
  3. Jobs are out there – right now. More than 50 percent of manufacturers in Northeast Wisconsin plan to hire in the first quarter of 2015.
  4. Most manufacturers think they’ll have a hard time filling the positions they have – 72 percent are worried about finding workers with the right skill sets. Positions in highest demand include machinists, IT support, sales reps, welders, engineers and maintenance mechanics. And for the first time, manufacturers say they think they’ll have trouble finding workers for general labor positions, meaning more entry-level positions will be available.
  5. If you want one of these jobs, you need to have more than the needed technical skills. Most manufacturers say they can’t find workers who communicate well, show up for work, know how to make decisions and a strong work ethic. Also, you should know some math. Most companies say it’s easier to train for technical skills than for these “soft” skills.

The report is based on responses from 151 leaders of manufacturing companies with $3 million or more in annual revenue and 25 or more employees.

What’s next? More partnerships with educators from the K-12 through college levels. The alliance want to build awareness and interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) classes. It also wants to recruit retiring workers as mentors and meet with elected officials and community leaders to make sure they know what the needs of manufacturers are – everything aimed at closing the skills gap.

Nikki Kallio is the Associate Editor at Insight Publications.

Nikki Kallio is the Associate Editor at Insight Publications.