What talents? Here’s the skill set Colorado’s new MFG economy needs

By Jo O’Brien | Jul 29, 2014

In each edition, CompanyWeek profiles Advanced Manufacturing companies doing smart work and using amazing techniques. The profits and longevity of our businesses, however, will need a new type of worker in order to succeed. In the past six months a Advanced Manufacturing State of Colorado talent pipeline team has traveled to meet more than 400 Colorado manufacturers across the state to better understand and describe an ideal manufacturing market workforce. Want to know what your peers said? Let’s start with the big picture and oft repeated new essential competencies. You even built and ranked for us a list we call the “hot jobs”.

Businesses need bigger food chains of talent. We didn’t just record the usual traditional occupational skills. The new basics for manufacturing employees include high tech production and distribution skills along with a greater ability to delivery with both speed and precision. Each business region called for employees who better assess production needs and who can solve current (and future) supply chain problems.

Top-needed occupations include basic production assemblers, CNC operators, varieties of welders, tool and die operators and engineers. No region forgot their cry for installation and maintenance, quality inspectors and experienced logistic experts. We are finishing 25 one page profiles of these “hot jobs”. The Colorado Community College System will be sending these out soon for your edits. For detailed reporting about what your region said overall about manufacturing workforce needs go to www.Coloradomanufacturingcareers.com . For those who attended a regional meeting, you may see your direct quotes or brief anecdotes.

No news, eh? The difference this round of conversations revealed was not found in the usual call for people with hard skills and experience.

EVERY city we visited had a nearly unanimous and urgent request for a workforce we did not see written into local job position descriptions. Old job descriptions posted –but here are the new mainstream basics implied for the job at each level in successful manufacturing:

· Adaptability to cope with unknown variables which occur daily in manufacturing

· Confidence to make a decision

· The capacity to solve complex problems (Individually and with others) and execute solutions

· Accuracy and precision in all work

· Persuasion of an idea based on logic (sales, floor work, design, etc.)

· Hourly use of quality measures and assurance proofs

· A premium on finding customer solutions or bringing products to market more quickly than the competition

· Innovations crafted for existing customer need or inventions which a society would crave

So how do we get a greater supply of these types? Well, it starts with business saying what it really means. The use of traditional job descriptions, typical conversations and the hiring of “below par” talent tell us all that the “status quo” will actually be ok for manufacturing work. Talk isn’t enough. If you now need a different breed of worker consider embedding these needs into your daily hiring and evaluation systems.

Secondly, deep pools of talented candidates are cultivated when its community knows about, values and rewards these competencies. It is “normal” in Nova Scotia’s fishing industry to have parents, mayors, schools and media brag about, develop, hire and celebrate workers who have specific skills and resiliency traits. Regionally, this has cultivated a deep pool of talent in its food industry. Silicon Valley has its own work skill values and its ways to cultivate the “next generation” of success. What is the “norm” where you live about our emerging Advanced Manufacturing skills listed above? Colorado’s manufacturing businesses almost unanimously outlined these specific set of new basic competencies for its industry. How mainstream are these behaviors off your property and in the public square?

Thirdly, supports exist to accelerate your workforce interests. The Community College System, universities, regional workforce centers, economic and labor boards are examples. Alone and together they are finding efficient ways to promote manufacturing careers… and these new basics. For example, there will soon be a draft “map” of existing courses, scholarships, and internships which support the manufacturing industry. To have manufacturers insist on seeing these “basic talent traits” in these assets would help.

Improving a talent food chain succeeds with improved job descriptions and the ways manufacturers hire and evaluate people at work. It also matters when not at work the way a community reinforces the “right” skills. Your recent manufacturing conversations can improve what is trained and expected.

So, let’s get together, be clear and agree on….what talents?

See above!

Contact Jo O'Brien at Jo.O'Brien@cccs.edu.