Business Matters: Plymouth Businesses Highlight Major Need for Manufacturing Workers
At Productivity Inc.’s recent Octoberfest Tool Show in Plymouth, students from across the Midwest got to learn what manufacturing is all about. They also learned what companies like Proto Labs are looking for.
“Our challenge is sometimes finding individuals that really kind of have basic employability,” said Kevin Nyenhuis, talent acquisition manager at Proto Labs, which has manufacturing facilities in Plymouth and in Brooklyn Park.
Nyenhuis says his company is looking for people wanting to start a career in manufacturing. He says the industry has changed a lot and isn’t what it once was.
“It’s not what they think of when they think of dirty, dark, greasy manufacturing environments that they might have thought from my generation or their parents,” he said. “Modern, clean, comfortable, our environments, I think that is a huge part of what students maybe don’t see in general or understand.”
Manufacturing students not only could see the very latest technology at Productivity’s facility, they also learn just how much in demand they are.
“I always get phone calls from employers, basically our customers, calling and asking, ‘Do you know any schools that have any students that are ready for hire?’ said Riska, Productivity’s administrator of education and events.
Riska says her company is working to help students understand what’s out there.
“Everything’s manufactured, from your cell phones, to your house, to your clothing, everything. It’s like a light bulb goes off. And they’re like ‘Oh, okay, I get it,” Riska said.
A Shortfall of Two Million Manufacturing Workers
Productivity is the largest machine tool dealer in the Midwest, employing 150 people at its Plymouth location. It hosts a student and career day every other year in an attempt to address a major skilled labor shortage.
According to a recent study by Deloitte, 2.4 million manufacturing jobs could go unfilled through 2028. A 2019 Minnesota survey of manufacturing firms reports 62 percent of job vacancies in skilled production occupations were difficult to fill.
Machines More Expensive Because of Skilled Labor Shortage
Alan Wessels, a machine tool sales manager at Productivity, gave CCX News a tour of the latest technology. The tour included machines that cost upwards of $1 million. Wessels says machines are more expensive and more intricate today because of the short supply of labor.
“Five years ago even, as recently as that, this was more of a cutting edge machine that very few shops would invest at this high level. Today this is more the norm,” he said.
Wessels says these machines can do everything from complex valve bodies to aerospace parts.
“I have the best job in the world. I have loved this profession since the beginning. It’s ever-changing, ever-evolving. And watching how manufacturing has gone from where it was 20 years ago to where it is today is light years apart,” said Wessels.
Employers Line Up for Manufacturing Students
Students we spoke with say there’s a constant stream of employers lining up to talk with them.
“It feels really good, honestly,” said David Kastanek, a manufacturing student at the Dunwoody College of Technology. “Dunwoody, they got guys coming in every week, pushing. They’re looking for us they want us.
“Everyone seems like they’re itching for us. It’s a little overwhelming,” added Kastanek.
Matthew Kilpatrick is seeking to become an industrial engineer. He says there’s limitless opportunities.
“It’s nice being able to know that when I’m done with school, when I work, I can go almost anywhere, and anyone is hiring right now.”
Employers like Productivity hope other students will consider manufacturing.
“The more that we can share with them and show them that it’s a great career path no matter where you go,” said Riska. “There’s always a job open. And you can go so many different places. It’s immeasurable.”