Some Manufacturers are Using Headhunters to Recruit Skilled Employees

In the face of the tightening job market and the growing skills shortage, some manufacturers are now turning to headhunters to recruit qualified candidates.

gettyimages-481510057-compressorMarketWatch reported that when the Caterpillar factory in Lafayette, Ind., needed nine skilled craftsmen with at least five years of experience, it had to pay relocation costs and recruiter’s fees of up to $15,000.

Using headhunters is common in the C-suite but it’s not typically something organizations turn to for blue-collar labor. Yet increasing labor pressures are forcing some to do much more to secure their workforce. While there’s already a shortage of entry level workers, it’s an even bigger problem to recruit and retain higher-skilled candidates like senior level electricians and mechanics. Manufacturers are also being hit with the retirement of longtime employees with decades of experience. Survey data by Deloitte indicates that 80% of executives say the growing skills gap will impact their ability to meet customer demand.

Southern Indiana recruiter Joshewa Meurer told MarketWatch that his greatest search difficulties include jobs for skilled maintenance and machinists. He said it can take contact with up to twenty candidates to attract one to a job as a maintenance technician. It’s not that there’s a lack of jobs, it’s that fewer candidates have the skills or experience. And those candidates who are qualified can take strategy and incentives to recruit. “I wouldn’t say there’s a lack of positions as a lack of people to do the jobs,” said Meurer.

The Wall Street Journal reports that many companies are trying to rebrand the image of manufacturing as a high-tech field with strong wages and a future of opportunity.”

Hiring manager Jim McKeown at Kingsbury, Inc., a bearing manufacturer in Philadelphia, Penn., told The Philadelphia Inquirer that his company has had success using an outside recruiter. Of the seventeen people who recently came aboard as temps, Kingsbury was able to hire six for full-time jobs. The Society for Human Resource Management’s monthly Leading Indicators of National Employment (LINE) reports one-third of HR professionals in manufacturing have said in recent months that they can’t fill an open position.

Some manufacturers are finding success by reaching out to millennials through trade school programs. The Wall Street Journal reports that many companies are trying to rebrand the image of manufacturing as a high-tech field with strong wages and a future of opportunity.

Cultivating talent through apprenticeships has proven beneficial but it doesn’t always meet immediate demands. A study by the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte Consulting predicts there will be two million unfilled manufacturing jobs by 2025. Finding the talent isn’t just about finding interest, it’s about finding the skills and experience. Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American manufacturing, said in an article at that while most manufacturing jobs only needed a high school diploma, the growth in the past decade has been with those that have advanced training and skills.

“The average American has no idea how robust the manufacturing sector has been and is going to be. We just need to get people the skills to take advantage of it,” said Paul.


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events