Silver linings

Posted on Mar 12, 2020 :: Editors Note
Jessica Thiel
Posted by , Insight on Manufacturing Staff Writer

The math doesn’t lie. To see just how severe the war for talent has become, look no further than the Job Center of Wisconsin, which lists more jobs available than people in the state to fill them. The lack of workers has become a real and pressing problem for many organizations, one that might be constraining growth for some companies and is probably causing lost sleep among many business owners.

The situation is dire, but at the same time, the talent shortage also may bring with it a silver lining: opportunities for workers with barriers to employment. Obstacles could come in the form of a disability, mental health issue, substance abuse problem, lack of education or criminal record. Given the unprecedented low unemployment numbers, companies are becoming more open to considering workers with barriers.

Offering opportunities to less traditional workers can deliver benefits to companies, those workers and society. For example, the roughly 10,000 people released from prison each year can help fill the tens of thousands of open jobs in the state, says Anthony Snyder, CEO of the Fox Valley Workforce Development Board. Furthermore, providing gainful employment to formerly incarcerated people has been shown to have about a 70 percent success rate at reducing recidivism.

In visiting Lakeside Packaging Plus in Oshkosh for this month’s cover story photo shoot, I saw firsthand the advantages of providing opportunities for workers with disabilities. The nonprofit works with companies such as J. J. Keller & Associates and Hoffmaster to provide contract light manufacturing work to people with disabilities. Matt Rasmussen, a worker who’s confined to a wheelchair and has cerebral palsy uses a head pointer to count out paper placemats for packaging. His caseworker says working is important to Rasmussen’s self-esteem and well-being. Check out my cover story beginning on page 8 to learn how companies are embracing workers with barriers.

For more feel-good news, turn to page 13 for MaryBeth Matzek’s feature on the New North’s two Manufacturer of the Year Award winners. Fox Valley Wood Products Inc. of Kaukauna won in the small manufacturer category, and Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Meats of Wittenberg won in the large manufacturer category. Not surprisingly, both companies’ leaders say they hope the recognition will help them attract employees.

Along with talent attraction and retention, cybersecurity remains a top concern for many manufacturers. Earlier this year, the Department of Defense rolled out the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification. It affects companies that manufacture any component that goes into a product made for the DOD. While large companies such as Oshkosh Corp. and Fincantieri Marinette Marine are probably well on their way to meeting the requirements, their subcontractors may have some catching up to do. Read MaryBeth’s story on page 20 for all you need to know about the new standard.