Recruiting engineers is getting more difficult, especially for manufacturing companies. In addition, manufacturers will spend $26.2 billion to upgrade employee skills due to several factors. These include: a) a tight labor market; b) the lack of STEM skills among the current talent pool and c) breakthroughs in workplace engineering, R&D (research and development), science and technology.
This was the substance of what I shared with host Cisco Cotto during my appearance on CBS Radio affiliate WBBM News Radio 780 on Friday, January 17, 2020. You may click here to listen to my segment in its entirety.
Questions I Was Asked and Answered
Below are the questions Cisco asked me as well as my responses in italics. I hope you enjoy this interview.
(Cisco) Manufacturing companies are looking to upgrade their employee’s skills. Manufacturers are spending billions of dollars to make sure their workers are up to speed with the latest skills and technology. We will discuss this with our guest, Scott Sargis, founder and president of Strategic Search Corporation.
Scott, before we talk about what employers are doing, let’s find out what the (recruiting) problem is. Why are hiring companies changing their employment tactics?
(Myself) Two words Cisco, STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) and technology. With respect to STEM, our schools are not currently teaching and they have not historically been teaching science, technology, engineering and math skills.
With respect to technology, there were two articles (that highlighted the growing adoption of technology among manufacturing companies). One was in Forbes from the World Economic Forum. The other from Industry Week. Both pointed to how technology will be more important in manufacturing of the future.
This includes AI (artificial intelligence), Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing and 5G. So that’s why employers are spending more money because when they are recruiting workers they are not ready for technology of the future, which is going to drive manufacturing.
(Cisco) And they (manufacturers) can’t just sit back and wait to find employees that have these (job) skills. So it sounds like they have to take care of it (STEM worker training) themselves; that (workplace) education component.
(Myself) Right. There is also another white paper that was put out by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers that pointed to five manufacturing trends to watch this year. This included wearable technology, predictive maintenance, 5G and smart manufacturing, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) and cyber security. All impacting future manufacturing including this year.
So, as you said Cisco, manufacturers can’t wait for their workers to be ready for these five manufacturing trends. They have to be proactive in teaching them (technical, engineering, scientific, IT (information technology) and R&D skills).
(Cisco) And it’s a combination of, it sounds like, not only their own (current) employees, but also being ready to train their future employees and maybe even doing some sort of (workplace) training before someone even gets hired. It seems really complicated.
(Myself) Right. Once again, it comes back to the issue of STEM. Our schools have been slipping in STEM so workers are not ready for technology of the future. As a result, unfortunately, companies need to spend this $26.2 billion to retrain workers so they are ready for technology and manufacturing of the future.
(Cisco) I’ll bet this means good things for wages for those employees. I guess if you’re the manufacturer you don’t like paying those higher salaries. However, if you have those STEM skills and knowledge you’re a pretty valuable (worker).
(Myself) That’s right. On top of all this, we hit the 111th straight month of jobs creation, Cisco, which is another all time (employment) record. The job market is getting tighter and tighter in general, and on top of that fewer and fewer employees have those STEM skills.
So recruiting engineers is getting a lot tougher. Those are two key factors as to why manufacturers have to spend all this money to train workers so they are ready for manufacturing of the future.
(Cisco) Changes in immigration policy. Obviously in Washington there is a lot of tension. I’ll bet that creates a challenge for manufacturers as well where they are having to do this (retraining of employees); they are having to spend this money because they need to get workers here at home to compete.
(Myself) That’s right and as your last guest, Bob Brusca, said — the tariffs are not hurting the U.S. as much as they are hurting China. So manufacturers are realizing that, so they are gearing up for this year and the future.
(Cisco) So what can parents of teenagers, who are thinking about college and trade school, do to help them acquire those STEM skills? What can parents do so their kids are prepared for these sorts of jobs (e.g. recruiting engineers)? Is it tutoring, or something like that? How can these kids get a leg up?
(Myself) Well, one of the things that has been slipping as part of STEM is the math skills. So one of the things that parents can do is emphasize math. It’s not sexy, but it directly relates to technology.
What they (parents) can do to augment the lack of math in schools is to teach them math. Have secondary classes in math. That is going to be a key to the future. The more STEM skills that their kids have, the more likely they will succeed in the future.
(Cisco) Thanks so much. Scott Sargis founder and president of Strategic Search Corporation here in Chicago.