Help Wanted

Recruiting and training young workers could be new way of life for manufacturers

When one of the largest economic recessions ever was at its peak a few years ago, most manufacturers didn’t have a lot of workers primarily because there wasn’t demand for their products. Today, as the economy and manufacturing seem to be turning around, organizations are finding it difficult to find workers with the necessary skills for the job.

In the United States, manufacturing activity has continued to increase for nearly a year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports manufacturing organizations employ more than 12 million workers. A 2012 study by Deloitte LLP revealed, however, that about 600,000 skilled manufacturing jobs remain unfilled.1

According to another study in staffing agency ManpowerGroup’s annual report, 36% of employers around the globe said they are experiencing talent shortages in 2014. That’s the highest figure in seven years. For three years in a row, the largest shortages were found in positions involving skilled trades, followed by engineering, production, operations, and maintenance technician work.2

Of employers looking for talent, 54% said the shortage has a medium to high impact on their ability to meet client needs, and it also reduces their competitiveness and productivity. According to the study, 24% said that a talent shortage negatively affects employee engagement, innovation and creativity.3

One contributing factor to this talent shortage, in the United States at least, is that more Americans are simply aging out of the workforce. A U.S. Census Bureau study showed that by 2030, more than 20% of Americans are projected to be 65 or older, compared to 15% in 2010 and 9.8% in 1970.4

Addressing the gap

All of this results in what employers call the "skills gap"—an increasing number of prospective employees who don’t have the skills, including basic math and computer abilities, required to perform necessary job functions. This gap, some industry leaders have said, could hinder U.S. manufacturers’ ability to compete.5

To overcome this gap, a few organizations are focusing on recruiting and training younger workers in new and different ways. For example, Batesville Tool & Die Inc. in Indiana, which makes metal stampings for vehicles, worked with local high schools to create a technical program to educate students about work in manufacturing.6

"We’ve got six to seven openings all the time," said Batesville’s CEO Jody Fledderman. "There are new positions that aren’t getting filled. We’re trying to develop young people that can stay in [the] industry for years."7

Germany-based automakers Volkswagen (VW) and BMW have found success in establishing apprenticeship programs and worker education policies.

VW just started a program to train workers on the advanced skills needed to make Passats assembled in the organization’s U.S. plant in Tennessee. Apprentices earn $10 to $11 an hour working part time in the assembly plant while attending classes to learn skills in electronics, mechanics, robotics and computer programming before starting full-time jobs in VW plants.8

A BMW factory in Spartanburg, SC, is attracting workers with a similar program. The automaker offers part-time work while paying for employees to earn an associate’s degree. Upon completion, employees are almost guaranteed a full-time job and the opportunity to pursue additional education in the future.9

Why aren’t more manufacturers starting initiatives like this? One negative is the up-front monetary and labor costs associated with establishing training programs. A&E Custom Manufacturing in Kansas City, for example, faces an average turnaround time of 2½ days for a parts order, "so we need our people here every day," said owner and president Steve Hasty.10

In addition, most U.S. businesses must fund and run training programs themselves. A better support network for manufacturers could help offset costs, provide incentives and allow them to better communicate to educators what skills they’re looking for.

Public-private partnerships

In countries such as Germany, businesses share the costs with the government, universities and labor unions, according to Stefanie Jehlitschka, vice president of the German American Chamber of Commerce. Schooling is available for more than 200 professions, and the majority of Germans have completed some type of training program.11

"The biggest challenge we see is the private and public sectors are not talking in the United States," Jehlitschka said. "Companies have never gotten involved in the educational system, and there are few or no collaborations."12

Better collaboration between industry and education also could help alleviate a misperception that manufacturing-related careers involve working in dark and dirty environments. This creates a stigma that may discourage young workers from entering the field.13

In fact, many manufacturing jobs are now being referred to as "blue tech" because they involve working in clean, technologically advanced plants, using computerized machines and robotics.

As the talent shortage worsens in the manufacturing sector, it may be worthwhile for organizations to find some way to recruit and develop workers to meet their needs. Even if it’s expensive, it could be worth it in the long run.

"The shortage of ‘good’ workers is a myth," said Dave Flanders, president of Christopher and Long, a recruiting company. "There are millions of good workers who are ready and willing to be trained, and they will make great employees if someone would just take the time and money to train them."14

—Amanda Hankel, assistant editor


  1. Katherine Peralta, "U.S. Manufacturers Say Skills Gap Could Compromise Competitiveness," U.S. News and World Report, http://tinyurl.com/ovww3bt.
  2. ManpowerGroup, "The Talent Shortage Continues," 2014, http://tinyurl.com/lgpbvrn.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Peralta, "U.S. Manufacturers Say Skills Gap Could Compromise Competitiveness," see reference 1.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Patrice Hill, "Volkswagen Tries to Bring Germany’s Worker-Friendly Policies to U.S.," Washington Times, Aug. 31, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/p3jo5b3.
  9. PBS NewsHour, "BMW Apprenticeship Program Trains Workers to Rise Through the Ranks Without 4-year Degree," June 4, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/lxglqsa.
  10. Diane Stafford, "Manufacturing Jobs Are Open, But Skills Gap Holds Back High-Tech Industry," Kansas City Star, Aug. 31, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/l8c5kyn.
  11. Hill, "Volkswagen Tries to Bring Germany’s Worker-Friendly Policies to U.S.," see reference 8.
  12. Ibid.
  13. PBS NewsHour, "BMW Apprenticeship Program Trains Workers to Rise Through the Ranks Without 4-year Degree," see reference 9.
  14. Stafford, "Manufacturing Jobs Are Open, But Skills Gap Holds Back High-Tech Industry," see reference 10.

Who’s Who in Q

NAME: Douglas Hlavacek.


EDUCATION: Master’s degree in statistics from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg.

INTRODUCTION TO QUALITY: One of Hlavacek’s most memorable summer jobs during college was as a quality inspector for a small plastics manufacturer. While mostly responsible for performing offline quality checks, he spent much time reworking out-of-spec parts to meet customer requirements. The importance of continuous improvement and building in quality was not lost on him after this summer job ended.

CURRENT JOB: Hlavacek is director of statistical sciences within Ecolab’s research development and engineering (RD&E) organization in Eagan, MN. His team of statisticians works closely with scientists and engineers worldwide to develop a deeper understanding of key products and processes. The team uses statistical and quality tools to optimize a product’s performance, minimize its cost and make offerings more robust to manufacturing, distribution and customer-use environments.

ASQ ACTIVITIES: Hlavacek is the examining chair for ASQ’s Statistics Division and has served the division as chair, awards chair and secretary. A member of the Twin Cities Section, Hlavacek also is a speaker at the upcoming ASQ Technical Communities Fall Conference Oct. 30-31 in Orlando, FL.

ACTIVITIES/ACHIEVEMENTS: Hlavacek established and led companywide training initiatives encompassing lean Six Sigma (Ecolab) and statistics (3M). He also championed and employed continuous improvement methods across multiple organizations. Hlavacek is an adjunct faculty member at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business in Minneapolis, teaching evening classes on quality management, lean Six Sigma and statistics to MBA students. He also has been a guest speaker at local high school advanced-placement statistics classes, sharing his experiences as a statistician and information about the need for statistical literacy as well as the wide range of opportunities for degreed statisticians.

RECENT HONORS: Hlavacek was part of the 2013 class of ASQ fellows. He is also the recipient of an internal award for successfully transferring an entire manufacturing and assembly operation from one facility to another.

FAVORITE WAYS TO RELAX: Spending time with family and friends, traveling, walking and hiking, watching movies, reading and working on home projects.

QUALITY QUOTE: Quality is never an accident. It’s a choice to be made.


9 Organizations Chosen for Site Visits

Nine U.S. organizations have been selected by the Baldrige panel of judges to receive site visits as part of the 2014 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award process. A site visit shows an organization remains in contention for the award.

The judges selected six organizations in the healthcare category, two nonprofits and one service business to receive site visits by teams of experts in October. The teams will answer questions and verify information submitted in award applications.

The Baldrige Performance Excellence Program received 22 applications in 2014: 12 healthcare organizations; six nonprofits; two educational organizations; and two service businesses.

Award recipients are expected to be named in late November. They will be honored at a ceremony next year in Baltimore.


Social Media Contest Precedes November Quality Celebration

A social media contest featuring definitions of quality will pave the way to the fifth-annual World Quality Month, which takes place in November.

The #QualityIs contest, which will take place in October, invites people to submit their own definitions of quality on Facebook or Twitter (directed to @ASQ) with the hashtag #QualityIs. Three winners will be selected to receive World Quality Month-themed prizes. Complete contest rules are posted at www.worldqualitymonth.org.

In November, the website also will feature a fun and informal quality tool personality quiz. The short questionnaire will let you learn what makes you and your contributions unique. Based on the seven basic quality tools, each quiz result is a description of the tool as it relates to your personality.

Visit www.qualitytoolquiz.com after Nov. 1 to learn what your favorite quality tool says about you. You will be able to share your result on ASQ social media or print it to display.

During World Quality Month, ASQ will launch an online self-assessment tool designed to allow participants to evaluate their organizations’ cultures of quality. The assessment will be available online at www.cultureofquality.org.

The self-assessment tool resulted from the ASQ/Forbes Insights culture of quality research that resulted in the white paper, "Culture of Quality: Accelerating Growth and Performance in the Enterprise." The free report is available at www.cultureofquality.org.

World Quality Month is an annual event celebrating quality and quality professionals. The www.worldqualitymonth.org website, supported by ASQ, contains a complete celebration guide and a toolkit with resources that can be downloaded.

ASQ News

SCHOLARSHIP AWARDED Salah Haridy, a research associate at Northeastern University in Boston and doctoral student at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, received this year’s Richard A. Freund International Scholarship. Haridy, of Egypt, was awarded the $5,000 scholarship, which is named after a past ASQ president and supports a quality professional’s graduate studies. Haridy’s research interests include quality control and process improvement in manufacturing and service sectors.

NEW SR GUIDE A free publication that guides quality professionals through the process of using their quality skills to help their organization integrate social responsibility has been released by ASQ. You can download the guide, titled "Integrating Social Responsibility Into Business Strategy: A Guide for Quality Professionals," at www.thesro.org/integration-guide.

ORIGAMI CASE STUDY A new case study involving a trainer in India using origami in his lean workshops has been released by ASQ’s Knowledge Center. To read this online-only case study, visit http://asq.org/knowledge-center/case-studies-origami-lean-workshop.html.

DIVISION CONFERENCES Three conferences sponsored by ASQ divisions are being held this month. ASQ’s Biomedical Division will host a conference Oct. 13 in Des Plaines, IL. For more information, visit http://asq.org/biomed. ASQ’s Food, Drug and Cosmetic Division will hold a conference Oct. 22 in Hoffman Estates, IL. Visit http://asq.org/fdc for more details. Twelve ASQ divisions are co-sponsoring the first ASQ Technical Communities Conference slated for Oct. 30-31 in Orlando, FL. Visit www.asqtcconference.com for more details.

LEADERSHIP PROGRAM ASQ is offering a leadership program for professionals at organizations focused on establishing a culture of quality and performance excellence. The one-year development experience will prepare professionals for impactful leadership and help them emerge with a broader perspective on how to achieve performance excellence for their own organizations, stimulate innovation, and build the knowledge and capabilities necessary to be leaders in the 21st century. Those interested in learning more about next year’s class should email emergingqualityleaders@asq.org.


Report: Most Execs Don’t Rely on Data to Make Big Decisions

The great majority of executives around the world—94%—say management in their organizations is prepared to make significant decisions about the strategic direction of their businesses, but barely one-third said they relied primarily on data and analytics when they made their last big decision.

Executives’ intuition or experience, along with the advice and experience of others in their organizations, influenced decision making for 58% of executives, according to a recent Economist Intelligence Unit survey report titled, "Gut & Gigabytes: Capitalizing on the Art and Science in Decision Making."

The 42% of executives who said their organizations are highly data driven, however, reported the biggest improvements in decision making during the last two years. All executives said a top priority for the next two years is to make investments in the quality of data analysis to enable better decisions.

More findings from the 40-page report, sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers, can be found at http://preview.thenewsmarket.com/previews/pwc/documentassets/345166.pdf.

Short Runs

A NEW ONLINE search tool for consumers to learn whether a vehicle is directly affected by a recall has been unveiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The free tool provides consumers a quick way to identify uncompleted recalls by entering a vehicle identification number. All major light vehicle and motorcycle brands can be searched. Visit https://vinrcl.safercar.gov/vin for more information.

TO TACKLE THE challenges of the federal government’s Big Data Research and Development Initiative and similar private-sector projects, a multidisciplinary approach comprised of partnerships among statisticians, mathematicians, data scientists and relevant domain scientists is needed, the American Statistical Association recommends in a recently released white paper. The 27-page paper, "Discovery With Data: Leveraging Statistics With Computer Science to Transform Science and Society," can be accessed at www.amstat.org/newsroom/pressreleases/2014-asawhitepaper.pdf.

A NEW EXECUTIVE director of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has been named. Thomas W. Smith III, a civil engineer by trade, has been an ASCE member for more than 25 years and has served as ASCE’s deputy executive director since 2010 and general counsel since 1997.

THE KUWAIT SOCIETY of Engineers (KSE) and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) International have formed a partnership that will cultivate several collaborative activities such as cooperative promotion, training, and upcoming meetings and events. ASTM also will provide editorial content for inclusion in Al-Mohandesoon magazine, KSE’s official publication.

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