How Do We Get More People To Enter This Field?

In the June 1996 issue of Modern Machine Shop, the topic for CNC Tech Talk was finding and hiring people for working with CNC equipment. We offered a proficiency test (and still do) to anyone who requested it.

In the June 1996 issue of Modern Machine Shop, the topic for CNC Tech Talk was finding and hiring people for working with CNC equipment. We offered a proficiency test (and still do) to anyone who requested it. We were amazed by the response. Over 700 of you requested this test, and over half included letters chronicling their trials and tribulations related to hiring people. Though that earlier column offered some suggestions for finding people, it appears that many of you have already exhausted some of the suggestions given.

This response affirms our experience when presenting CNC seminars. During each class, someone voices their frustration relative to finding, hiring, and keeping good people. I suspect this staffing problem is not limited to CNC. It seems that all of manufacturing is suffering from the lack of an entry level work force.

While many companies have developed in-plant training programs and/or work closely with local technical schools to provide their new hires with extensive training, the fact remains that there is a shortage of people willing to enter this field in the first place. This problem is fueled by so-called expert job counselors that unwittingly perceive manufacturing to be in a permanent state of decline, and tell our future job force to study in fields related to the service sector of our economy.

As motivational speaker Tom Hopkins says, "When you are dissatisfied with any situation, get inspirationally dissatisfied—and do something about it!" Based upon the strong tone of your response letters, it sounds like many of you are ready to do more than just talk about this problem. Here are a few suggestions. I challenge everyone who responded to my offer for the free proficiency test to act on one or more of these suggestions. With a little thought, you can surely come up with even more powerful ideas.

In your local schools:

Get involved with your local technical and vocational schools. You may be surprised to learn how willing they are to accommodate your requests. And they'll also be anxious to help you promote CNC in your community.

Also, see what you can do to support the educators:

Educate the guidance counselors! It is likely that the guidance counselors in your local high school have never even heard of CNC, let alone counseled anyone to learn more about it. Once they understand the potential for rewarding careers in CNC, they should be willing to counsel their students to enter the field.

Help the vocational instructors. While you may find a better understanding of CNC on the part of vocational instructors, it is doubtful that even the best high school instructors have access to the latest in CNC technology. You can change this. But you can only do so through active participation. Plant tours, career days, and offering mentoring to interested students are among the many ways you can get involved.

In the community:

Get involved with your local chamber of commerce, local employment offices and social groups. Talk to anyone who has contact with large numbers of people. Ask to speak about CNC or manufacturing in general at monthly meetings.

In the local media:

Talk to the local television and radio stations. You may be surprised to learn how anxious they are to find topics for special reports in their news programs. Do you have a local cable access channel? Use it to get the word out about job potential in CNC careers.

Since we see it every day, we can sometimes forget how exciting it can be to work in this field. I get e-mail every day through our web site from people who say that this field sounds exciting, but they had never berfore heard of CNC. They wonder how they can learn more about it. Others relate how impressed they were when they saw their first CNC machine in action, and now they want to learn more about it. It is exactly this kind of interest that we must inspire and nurture when we describe our field.

Prepare for your discussions with people in your community. Video tape some of your machines in action. Get testimonials from your current people. And most importantly, be prepared to discuss the wages your company pays people trained in CNC.