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Manufacturing: Help Wanted

By APICS CEO Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE | 0 | 0 | May 11, 2012
APICS Operations Management NowOne sure sign of economic recovery is when companies struggle to fill open positions. While this is not a great situation for the businesses involved, it puts a great deal of power into the hands of those with the right training and experience.

This week’s USA Today featured an article that highlights the manufacturing industry’s hiring situation, titled “Manufacturers Search for Workers to Sustain Revival.” The authors begin by examining XPAK USA, a packaging technologies provider headquartered in New Jersey. The company is doing well—sales in the first quarter of 2012 are 10 times greater than all of 2007. But XPAK still struggles to find the right people. “It seems like a machinist is a rare bird in New Jersey,” says company owner Tami Minond. 

Meredith Aronson, director of the New Jersey Advanced Manufacturing Talent Network, says that many companies feel the same pressures. Business leaders are apprehensive as orders continue to go up, but the pool of available, qualified workers stays at the same level. Educators and employers need to get creative, either by providing training or seeking out new sources of labor, such as returning war veterans who bring with them a sense of discipline and teamwork. 

Solving the talent crisis with education and training is more complicated than it sounds. Many of today’s students choose other professional avenues over a career in manufacturing, and manufacturing training programs often come at a very high cost. “Manufacturing has been an industry outsourced overseas … so a lot of families and parents aren’t encouraging their kids to get into manufacturing,” says Jim Hefti, vice president of human resources at Advanced Technology Services. “Now you’re seeing a resurgence, but you don’t necessarily have the skill sets to fill the need.” 

Inquire within

The manufacturing skills gap is not only occurring with machinists. We are constantly reminded that the talent shortage is occurring at multiple levels of the organization. While it presents a difficult question for companies who need workers, it’s also a great opportunity for those willing to devote the time and effort to become competent in a manufacturing career path such as supply chain and operations management. In the current economic climate, it’s vital to demonstrate to employers that you have the knowledge and ability to perform the job. It requires external markers of skill, which include direct work experience, secondary education degrees, and respected industry certifications. 

The APICS Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) and Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) designations were created with the goal of demonstrating an individual’s commitment to acquiring current industry knowledge and achieving continual development. In supply chain and operations management, an APICS CPIM or CSCP credential proves your command of a discipline that’s not only growing in importance, but is constantly changing. 

It’s true that the United States is in the midst of a manufacturing resurgence; but it may require deeper societal changes before the talent crisis is solved. In the meantime, savvy professionals can take advantage of the shortage by enhancing their own worth to employers. And they can do this through the education and training that APICS provides. To learn more about the benefits of APICS certification, visit our website at apics.org.

Idea exchange

Now, you can take the APICS Operations Management Now discussion to your social networks on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and the APICS Supply Chain Channel. Be sure to use the hashtag #OMNow and include @Tweet_APICS in any tweets to have your words featured on the APICS homepage.

  • Does your background in supply chain and operations management help you in today's economic climate? What effects has it had on your career?
  • What are large companies currently doing to ease the talent crisis? What can they do further?
  • Is there a stigma against manufacturing careers, especially among younger people? What can be done to remove this stigma?
In other news

Related APICS education

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    By John R. Schultz
    March/April 2011, APICS magazine

Not an APICS member? Join today.


  1. Joe Urbanczyk July 07, 2013, 10:37 AM
    I concur with Mr. Lopez regarding an applicant's age as a dicriminator in today's job market.  I am a 50 year old man who has been actively searching for a new job for the past eight months in anticipation of the end date for the defense contract on which I work.  WIth nearly 80 resumes and job applications submitted against positions for which I am overqualified, to those for which I am a great fit, to those that represent elevating myself to a higher level and greater challenge, I have had only two interviews, and my contemporaries have had the same results.  We all agree that in our interactions with hiring managers we sense a subtle, unstated preference for younger applicants to fill the positions.  As discouraging as this is, I continue my job search.  Mr. Lopez, the best of luck to you in your search.  
  2. Larry DeVries July 06, 2013, 01:36 PM
    I agree with Mr. Lopez. The older white collar worker is looked at with stereotypes rather than looked on as an skilled, experienced employee. I was in a similar situation as age 60 when I had my last manufacturing job (2005). I realized at that time in looking around at the plant staff that no one there was older than 50 years. The site manager was that old (50) but the GM was in his 40s and everyone else was younger. That observation sent a message to me. I believe the traditional way of applying for a job in manufacturing is a dead end. The only hope is that one could come in contact with a hiring manager by way of networking and then that manager could over-ride internal HR processes and hire the older worker to overcome the age situation.
  3. Thomas Lopez May 18, 2012, 11:21 AM

    I have been un-employed for almost a year,
    because the organization for which I had worked merged the division into
    another in a different state. Therefore, I had been struggling to get into
    another job as a material and production planner. The organizations to which I
    had sent my resume (238) are looking youngsters with less experience to perform
    the job that I had been doing for 20 plus years and with a BA in management. Of
    those 238 applications, I went to an interview to 25 of them, for some am
    overqualified, some others does not bother to respond. Aim a healthy 60 years
    old man looking to engage into a job market for at least 10 more years. Aging
    discrimination is a fact that I had been encountering because is denying the
    opportunity to mature people to fill up those open positions.