Whether your company is ready or not, your older employees are going to retire and take years of valuable experience with them. As of 2017, nearly 25% of the manufacturing workforce was 55 or older. So, with an aging workforce exodus on the horizon, now’s the time to act. According to the Panopto Workplace Knowledge and Productivity Report, the average large U.S. business loses $47 million in productivity every year as a direct result of inefficient knowledge sharing.

Start at the Bottom

Think of the manufacturing workforce as a pyramid, with the bottom representing entry-level employees who don’t need advanced technical skills for employment. Instead, workplace skills such as effective communication, problem-solving, and good time management should be considered.

The highest volume of open manufacturing positions exists at the base of the pyramid, and this is where your company’s future talent will come from.

Prepare for aging manufacturing workforce

But if you’re like most manufacturers, your company is probably finding it difficult to fill entry-level positions. And should that be the case, perhaps it’s time for you to revisit your approach to hiring for these roles. Maybe your hiring standards are too restrictive for this level of work.

You might be asking for skills that aren’t essential for success in a particular position. For instance, most manufacturers no longer use rulers to measure product dimensions. Would you turn away an applicant for not knowing how to read a ruler? You might consider looking past that if an individual is willing to learn and work hard.

In the past, manufacturers could set the bar extremely high for entry-level applicants, requiring them to have so many years of experience and an associate degree or technical certificate in a trade. But with today’s labor shortage and an aging workforce, it’s an approach that prevents hard-working people from filling entry-level positions and growing the manufacturing workforce.The National Association of Manufacturers recently reported that 77% of surveyed employers cited “attracting and retaining a quality workforce” as a top business challenge.

Train for Skills

When you come across someone who is reliable, willing to work, and has a desire to learn, you should consider hiring and training them for an entry-level position. Generally speaking, individuals who possess these traits are highly trainable and will be loyal employees if you invest in their development.

Most entry-level manufacturing positions center around these four skills categories:

1. Workplace and Soft Skills (work habits, personality traits)
2. Risk Management and Compliance Skills (safety standards, regulatory requirements)
3. Technical Skills (industry-defined applied tasks)
4. Quality and Continuous Improvement Skills (global quality management standards)

For the most part, when you break down the number of skills necessary for an entry-level position, the list is fewer than 20. So, with the right learning and development platform (e.g., 180 Skills), a hard-working individual can develop the essential skills for an entry-level position in less than a week.

Rise to the Top

Getting a productive entry-level employee to a highly skilled member of your workforce requires a strategic approach and ongoing development. You need an idea of how this individual will contribute to the company’s bottom line and have a plan to grow this individual over time.

You might consider using 180 Skills to build career lattices for your employees to climb. The career lattice model is much more adaptive than the career ladder approach. It represents the multidirectional and expansive nature of how successful companies operate today. Career lattices allow for vertical, horizontal, and diagonal movement within a company, resulting in a more well-rounded workforce.

Companies that invest $1,500 or more per employee per year on training average 24% higher profit margins than those with lower yearly training investments, according to HR Magazine.

Hire to Retire Philosophy

By hiring individuals based on their work ethic and willingness to learn and then investing in their career development, you’ll have a continuous pipeline of quality workers who’ll be able to pick up where your aging workforce leaves off.

Schedule a demo to see if WorkForge can help your company prepare for the aging workforce exodus.