The Value Of A Skilled Team

By Ted Dieck | Employers Intelligence - Compensation | May 20, 2023

So, maybe U.S. Manufacturing is a good thing, after all.  Amazing.
It does beg the question:  What is the value of the [remaining] skilled labor force?

Dan Markham is the Editor of the Metal Center News.  Returning from the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association Annual Meeting in Las Vegas, Dan offered his April 11, 2023 editorial “Manufacturing Back in Favor.”  He opened with this good news…

“After decades of disregard, leaders in the nation’s capital have begun to see the light on the important role manufacturing plays in the country’s future.”

And that’s pretty much where his good news ends.  He reports that lobbyist Omar Nashashibi spoke of bi-partisan enthusiasm for rebuilding U.S. manufacturing.  But he also admits it’s unlikely to get any action.

That’s OK.  To my mind, it’s a win if the government would just stay out of the way.

Bringing Manufacturing Back

In my earliest years as a recruiter, I placed Tool & Die Makers in the metal forming industry.

Over time, I witnessed a shrinking industry, and the elimination of the skilled labor that powered it.  Production —and jobs— went to Mexico.  When that got too expensive, manufacturers moved on to China.

Now that re-shoring is popular, manufacturers are faced with the inevitable…

  • They have more manufacturing jobs available and
  • Fewer skilled workers to fill them.

But old habits die hard.  After decades of cost-cutting, the metal fabrication industry can’t get used to the idea of paying a living wage.  That’s a big problem in an inflationary environment.

When experienced employees can’t support their families on their income, they leave.

And, as I said, there aren’t enough experienced employees available to replace them.

Caleb’s Counsel

Caleb Chamberlain offered an excellent solution in The Fabricator.  I encourage you to read his May 15, 2023 article, “The Living Wage Gap In Metal Fabrication.”

He argues that you could PAY DOUBLE…

  • Turnover would stop;
  • You wouldn’t have to pay those nasty recruiting fees; and
  • Re-work and training costs would drop to about zero.

Even better, you would have your pick of the very best workers available.  And, he says, “It’s hard to overestimate the value of having a core group of experts doing quality work on the line.”

His strategy leverages automation, efficiency, and revenue growth off a stable base of experts who know what they’re doing.

Read that last sentence again.  Without employees who understand the process, automation is just a faster way to make big mistakes.

With a solid team in place, automation magnifies an already strong performance.

I think he’s got a point.