As I listened in on a webinar presenting the results of WMEP Manufacturing Solutions’ latest Economic Crisis/COVID-19 Pulse Survey, one finding jumped out at me. Even amidst all the other challenges and uncertainties that have emerged since the pandemic began, finding and keeping workers still sits near the top of the list of manufacturers’ concerns. Of course, a window of higher unemployment rates won’t put enough new people into manufacturing jobs to erase a persistent demographics problem. At the same time, it’s telling that during a time when the coronavirus is surging, attracting talent still remains one of employers’ biggest worries.
This month’s cover story explores strategies for attracting younger workers. The NEW Manufacturing Alliance has been researching the topic for about a year and a half, commissioning a study with De Pere-based Element and tapping the expertise of workforce recruiting groups. It has sought to identify qualities important to next-generation workers and to assess sentiments of manufacturing workers in Northeast Wisconsin and beyond. With that knowledge, the alliance hopes to better educate manufacturers about where to put their focus when it comes to attracting workers. Turn to my story on page 8 for recruiting advice and to see what drew a few of the region’s top young manufacturing professionals to their roles.
One way to reach fresh talent is to connect with students when they’re still in high school. That’s the focus of GPS Education Partners, a program that gives juniors and seniors a different way and place to learn — on the job. Menasha Corp. recently added a GPS education center at its Neenah headquarters, and it sees the partnership as one way to address the skills gap. Many of the students in the GPS program have struggled in the traditional education environment, so the program’s success is a win all around. Read Nikki Kallio’s story on GPS Education Partners on page 19.
Speaking of wins, this year’s 10th annual Manufacturing First Expo & Conference was a success that showed us that change is possible and oftentimes even desirable. The 700-plus attendees of the virtual conference found value in connecting with others from their home or office through the Brella platform. Who knows? Maybe the conference of the future is hybrid. I sure hope to see all of your lovely faces in person next year, though. Turn to page 14 for a recap of this year’s event.
Taking time for gratitude becomes all the more important during times of adversity. Each night before bed, I write in my gratitude journal. It’s a practice I started this year, just kind of going through the motions at first. Once I began, I started to see opportunities to give thanks for even the simplest of pleasures, whether it’s my first delicious sip of coffee in the morning or spotting a beautiful sandhill crane in a field as I’m walking or driving. Today, I am thankful for you, our readers, who have stuck by us during a tough year. I wish each of you health and happiness this Thanksgiving.