How to Recruit Entry Level Talent in Manufacturing

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When it comes to recruitment marketing, one sector that needs an upgrade is manufacturing. We’ve talked about staffing challenges in the manufacturing space previously, specifically related to the Society for Human Resource Management’s Leading Indicators of National Employment (LINE) report which indicates that one-third of HR professionals in manufacturing have said that they can’t fill an open position.

How to Recruit Entry-Level Manufacturing Candidates

While leveraging your local staffing office might have been your secret recruiting sauce in manufacturing, this should not be a strategy that you use solely to recruit candidates. Manufacturing needs entry-level candidates and faces the most serious recruiting challenge: manufacturing’s negative image among young people. In order to attract millennials — roughly defined as people born between 1982 and 2000 — to apply to your open jobs and join your workforce, creative strategies that focus on what appeals to next-generation candidates are required.

Related: How to Use Recruitment Marketing to Reach Manufacturing Candidates

Here, we’ll cover four areas that can help your recruiting team and company reach a demographic who might generally overlook job listings in the manufacturing sector.

  • Build your own partnership. Working with your local vocational school(s), you can help create a program whether it’s a certification or a formal training program to hire from. Another budget friendly option is to get your hiring managers and leaders involved as instructors. The best kind of recruiting is one when it comes naturally. College academic advisors are often instrumental in directing students toward careers in high-demand manufacturing sectors and recommending apprentice or internship programs. Partnering with local colleges, especially those with vocational programs, can give your employer brand a boost with next-generation candidates and set your hiring funnel up for success in entry-level hiring.

    Consider dedicating one-third to half of your entry-level positions open for apprenticeships, depending on the bandwidth of your more experienced employees. Your apprentices will have the opportunity to learn on the job, receive college credit, and a large percentage will potentially convert to full-time entry level employee. An added bonus: Programs like these provide a hands-on experience without the full commitment of employment so that candidates will have a better idea of on-the-job responsibilities, and your company can assess aptitude before on-boarding for entry-level positions.


  • Develop a mentoring and internship program. Over the next decade, there could be a shortage of 2 million manufacturing employees. That’s because there aren’t enough workers with the skills and training needed for modern manufacturing, according to a report released earlier this year by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute. About 2.7 million workers are expected to retire in the next 10 years, while 700,000 new jobs are projected to result from business growth.

    Creating a formal mentoring and internship program doesn’t have to be complicated. Many companies put this off because they believe they’ll need a dedicated, full-time HR staffer to run the programs or they think it will be costly. Once your team sets up the guidelines, it’s going to be your hiring managers running “pieces” of the program. The guidelines will dictate things like how many internships your company can have open at any given time, whether or not your interns must be working for college credit (in most states, unpaid internships must be directly tied to college credit; paid internships don’t have the same requirements), and who fills out the paperwork for your interns (answer: the hiring manager overseeing the intern on his or her team).

    For the future of manufacturing, consider the generation that follows millennials (often referred to as Gen Z; the earliest members are graduating from college now). Starting with early education and high school, many businesses and schools work together in Project Lead the Way (PLTW) programs that prepare students for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers as early as kindergarten. Today roughly 6,500 schools operate PLTW programs in all 50 states.

  • Go where your candidates are. Using a job seeker survey, ask your recent hires and candidates where they spend their time personally and professionally. Use this information to help build a digital recruiting strategy. This can work well organically targeting candidates, and even better if you have a small budget to improve your reach for social or digital display ads.

    Once you’ve identified where your choice candidates spend their time, there are likely Facebook or LinkedIn groups focused on their industry and position. You can target your spend based on group membership. For programmatic advertising, consider what your top candidates might search for not just when considering a job change, but also what they might search for related to career development. Highlighting your company’s training and development programs for employees can be an effective tool in your digital ad campaign.

  • Use video and other digital resources to share day in the life videos and stories to help drive qualified candidates regardless targeting your entry-level workforce. Your social media channels are a great example of how this can work. The algorithms on Facebook and Instagram tend to reward companies using video content. The audience on social media skews slightly younger, and a presence on Facebook and Instagram can help you broadcast what makes your manufacturing jobs appealing and why a younger demographic should consider developing skills in your industry. Video is the perfect medium for appealing to this demographic. Consider 30 or 60-second job role focused videos, employer brand videos, and videos about your company’s training and development programs.

Related: How Video Can Transform Your Recruitment Marketing

Recruiting Manufacturing Talent is a Long-Term Investment

Remember, you’re not solving an immediate problem in recruiting entry-level manufacturing talent. The ability to find and hire great entry-level talent gives companies in any sector the opportunity to retain high performers throughout the course of their professional careers. Just as retaining your current workforce is an investment, training and development programs for your future workforce should become a budget line item in the “must have” column.

Topics: Recruiting Strategies

Updated May 6, 2019