The 2020 Mid-Year Economic Update_long

Power Transmission Distributors Grapple with Recruiting Difficulties

PTDA Foundation survey finds more than three-quarters of respondents have had more trouble hiring this year than in the past.
Arbeiter in der Fabrik

Distributors and manufacturers in the power transmission industry are struggling to attract and keep qualified workers. They need to fill up the talent pipeline, especially as more of their older workers retire.  

Seventy-four percent of employers said the current talent pool is insufficient both in size and in qualifications to meet the needs of the industry, according to a new survey from the PTDA Foundation, the charitable arm of the Power Transmission Distributors Association. Likewise, 79% of employers said hiring and recruiting new employees is a challenge, while 77% found this year’s hiring process to be more challenging than previous years. 

Only 26% of distributors and 20% of manufacturers said their company is currently able to find a sufficient number of qualified candidates for open job positions. The highest rates of unfilled positions were for plant managers/supervisors, product specialists/managers, engineers, machine operators and warehouse supervisors, the survey found.

Mary Jawgiel, program director of the PTDA Foundation, says recruiting is hard partly because the industry is misunderstood. “No one knows who they are. You don’t recognize that the industry is really progressive,” she says. 

Telling your company’s story in an attractive and exciting way helps your recruiting efforts. “Selling their companies as a place to work is just as important as selling their products and services,” Jawgiel says. To do that, you need to talk about how you solve problems for your customers, she adds.  

Another factor contributing to recruiting difficulties is lack of HR support. Forty-two percent of survey respondents do not have an HR professional on staff, which means senior leaders and supervisors are trying to solve the recruiting problems.

Potential Solutions

Distributors and manufacturers can expand their efforts beyond the traditional talent pool by exploring partnerships with local trade schools and universities, attending regional career fairs, using recruiters or staffing agencies, and using social networks like LinkedIn. 

Another way to attract more job applicants would be to increase pay and benefits. “Their compensation policies need to be looked at a bit, especially for the younger generation,” says Ann Arnott, executive vice president of the Power Transmission Distributors Association.

In their hiring decisions, companies are increasingly prioritizing soft skills, knowing they can train incoming employees on the technical skills and knowledge that are specific to the industry, company or products, the survey found. “It’s a good investment” when you train new employees on that kind of technical information, Jawgiel says. Soft skills, like customer service, people skills and problem-solving, can be harder to teach. 

Employers in the industry should change their employment advertisements and job descriptions to highlight the people skills, employee benefits and value proposition that the employer offers, the survey report suggests. 

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