A peculiar problem has plagued the manufacturing industry for the past decade — one that is rarely found, especially at this scope, in other fields. That problem is the manufacturing skills gap: the difficulty that manufacturers and other industrial businesses encounter in filling skilled technical jobs with qualified personnel. The skills gap touches all technical areas of manufacturing, from machine operation to maintenance. In maintenance, the gap is especially pronounced, and it can have a major impact on operations.
Unlike other fields, where difficulty filling a position might be measured in weeks or months, it can sometimes take a year or more to fill skilled maintenance positions in manufacturing. Couple this with the fact that manufacturers expect some 2.1 million jobs to go unfilled over the next 10 years, and it is clear that the need for manufacturing technicians is dire.
Why are maintenance positions especially important to fill? Industrial maintenance affects nearly every success metric of a manufacturing facility, including productivity, uptime, efficiency and safety, to name a few. Leaving these positions unfilled lowers the overall capacity of the facility as fewer workers must complete more work, and filling them with unqualified talent creates unacceptable safety risks, in addition to the risk of damaging equipment.
In the rest of this piece, we’ll look at how to recruit maintenance technicians, while talking about some of the reasons the skills gap exists. We’ll also explore some of the more innovative approaches that businesses take when solving the problem of how to hire technicians.
How to recruit maintenance technicians
As we talk about the factors that go into how to recruit technicians, many of the reasons for the skills gap will become clear as well. In short, the skills, certifications and experience that most positions require are difficult to locate. On the employee side, expectations are not always aligned with what companies can offer. Read on for ways to overcome these challenges.
- Search for “soft skills” as well as hard training: In order to be effective and productive in a maintenance position, technical training is only the beginning of the story. The most proficient industrial technicians are skilled in areas such as troubleshooting, which is an art as well as a science and relies on abilities such as communication to determine the cause of an issue. These skills are not always apparent on a resume but should be sought out nonetheless.
- Test whether knowledge matches what’s on the resume: It is easy for job applicants to list areas of expertise on a resume, but it’s all too common that the knowledge to back up these claims is not present. It’s important to ask probing questions and even provide tests to verify that potential employees can demonstrate the skills they claim to have.
- Ensure that the job description remains tailored to your needs: When a position is especially difficult to fill, you may be tempted to lower the requirements to attract more applicants or make a hire. For example, the best maintenance technicians are knowledgeable across a suite of areas: mechanical repairs, electrical, PLC maintenance experience and even networking. Often, this breadth of knowledge is only gained through work experience. However, if a position remains unfilled for long enough, a company may settle for only a core competency. This can be difficult on both the hiree and the company as maintenance needs in other areas continue to go unfilled.
- Expand the search geographically: Limiting a search to the immediate geographic area can prove highly detrimental to a recruiting process, given the known scarcity of available talent. Expanding the search geographically — and providing relocation funding — can yield major dividends in terms of expanding the talent pool.
As evidenced by these points, the bar to fill a skilled maintenance position is quite high, and the search can consume an extensive amount of resources. In order to quickly fill positions with proven talent, many facilities explore other methods.
Technical workforce solution
A technical workforce solution is a fast and efficient way to access skilled, experienced and certified maintenance technicians who are ready to provide an array of maintenance services to fulfill any need in your facility.
ATS provides these solutions for manufacturing facilities across the United States and beyond, ensuring the highest level of technical skill through our:
- Ongoing technical training and certification
- Dedicated technical knowledge base
- On-call system of subject matter experts
- Robust recruiting strategy
With ATS’ Technical Workforce Solution, you can own your unique maintenance strategy while we handle the training, certification and HR of the skilled maintenance personnel you’re looking for. Let our experienced maintenance personnel and over three decades of manufacturing maintenance expertise mend your facility’s skills gap today. To learn more about all our maintenance solutions, contact ATS today.