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Rev Up Hiring with 4 Rs

To fill vacant positions and build a modern workforce, manufacturers need to focus on the four Rs: recruit, retain, representation, and rates (pay rates), according to a diverse panel of industry experts.
Feb 14, 2023

“Manufacturing helped save my life,” said Andrew Crowe, founder of The New American Manufacturing Renaissance Tour during his panel on workforce development on the IMTS 2022 Main Stage. “Now, I want to help save manufacturing.”

Crowe and the panel of experts he assembled had many great suggestions that came down to four Rs. Remember these!


One of the biggest challenges facing manufacturers attempting to find workers is competition — and not just from other manufacturers. Patrick O’Rahilly, founder and CEO of Factoryfix, points out that manufacturers are competing against corporate giants like Amazon (who can always out pay them) and Uber (who can always offer more flexibility).

“We have to raise awareness about career tracks,” he says. “We need to show young people that manufacturing is not just a job; it is a career. They can start as a machine operator, become a CNC machinist, and then a programmer. There are real growth opportunities.”

Recruitment efforts should focus on content that speaks directly to digital natives. “We have to energize, entertain, and educate with our content,” explains Will Healy, III, global welding segment manager, Universal Robots A/S. “Digital natives are not going to respond to corporate videos. You have to get them excited, and you have to show them what you do in an engaging way — starting at the most basic level.”


Training programs may help young people get jobs, but how do we make sure those young workers stay in the field? “We need young people to not just work in manufacturing, but to lead in manufacturing. We have to build relationships and connections, so young people feel like they belong in the industry,” notes Erica Swinney Staley, executive director of the Manufacturing Renaissance/Young Manufacturers Association. That means focusing on employee engagement and enrichment. Don’t just hire young workers and forget about them.


Focusing on representation is also essential to recruiting and retaining the next generation workforce. Women and people of color need to see themselves represented in the industry — in marketing materials, in training programs, and on the shop floor! Everyone wants to feel like they belong; show diverse workers that they belong. “If they can’t see it, they won’t be it,” says Meaghan Ziemba, CEO of Mavens of Manufacturing.

Rates (Pay Rates)

One simple and practical change that companies can make immediately to boost applicants is to include pay rates on their job listings, according to O’Rahilly. “Jobs with pay rates included get twice as many applications,” he says. Even if that means giving existing employees a raise to be able to post a competitive rate, companies need to understand how important it is to be upfront about wages.

Find more about industry workforce development challenges and opportunities on IMTS+ at IMTS.com/WATCH and IMTS.com/READ.

Catherine “Cat” Ross
Director of Smartforce Development
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