Commentary | Manufacturers Should Lock In Workforce Gains

By Matt Joing, vice president of operations at Butech Bliss, president of the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition
And Jim Rutkowski Jr., general manager of Industrial Sales and Manufacturing and officer of the Erie Regional Manufacturer Partnership

We’re living inside a history book right now, and while the end has yet to be written it’s largely up to us to determine how this crisis concludes. 

For our region’s manufacturers, what comes next may be the result of the actions we took when the economy started to become severely affected. 

In order to preserve cash flow, some may have furloughed staff due to a slow down. Others may have decided to use this time to double down on apprenticeships and other training and development programs. 

While there are pros and cons to each scenario, manufacturers should consider the value of upskilling and retaining the workforces that we’ve worked so hard in recent years to develop. 

Collectively, we’ve made so many positive strides in recruiting young people to manufacturing careers to meet a growing demand for skilled labor. Will we allow this pandemic to take our efforts two steps back from this progress, lose the gains we’ve made and have to start over again? 

Let’s continue to retain the knowledge and experience we spent so much time and money cultivating. It is valuable to think about how hard we worked to recruit and train these individuals in the first place.

For many manufacturers negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic it’s likely to be a relatively short-term economic hit. Orders will come back. And the need for highly skilled, highly motivated employees will return, as well. Will we already have them on our rolls? Or will we have to start over again and find them? And train them. And retain them.

Qualified skilled labor who can meet our hiring requirements continue to be highly sought after. Many of us are going after the same individuals. How will we respond to an interview question from a future job candidate who asks how our company handled the COVID-19 crisis? Our answer might say a lot about how much they perceive we value our employees.

Bottom line, we need our employees in both prosperous and challenging times.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.