Distributor Survey: Most Have Plans to Hire

The industry faces a labor gap and brain drain, according to ICP, in an industry where product application knowledge and relationships with customers drive profitability.

A recent survey by the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors’ Institute for Distribution Excellence on behalf of the Industrial Careers Pathway found that 91 percent of distribution firms surveyed plan to hire new employees within the next five years.

In the survey, more than half of survey respondents said that between 33 percent and 39 percent of their workforce would be eligible for retirement within five years, with 16 percent to 20 percent indicating 13 percent of their employees would retire within five years.

This means that the industry faces a labor gap and brain drain, according to ICP, in an industry where product application knowledge and relationships with customers drive profitability.

ICP is an initiative supported by an alliance of industry associations focused on building a skilled industrial distribution and manufacturing workforce. ICP links students and job seekers to careers in these industries through partnerships with local educators and employers.

The distribution industry has faced stiff competition for workers from sectors such as information technology, healthcare and consumer goods.

One survey respondent said: “We are having real problems getting connected to the right kind of people (to fill jobs).” Another added: “The distribution industry is, by and large, not considered to be an ‘in’ industry anymore. We have to generate a passion for our industry to attract recruits.”

Survey respondents included companies from under $20 million in sales (30 percent of respondents) to those in the $20 million-$99 million range (28 percent) to companies over $1 billion in sales (15 percent). The majority of survey respondents were CEOs or high-level executives within the companies who responded to the survey.

The jobs to be filled include outside/field sales jobs, inside/counter sales and customer service jobs and technical or product specialist jobs.

Of those surveyed, only 10 percent require education above an associate’s degree for inside sales positions and 25 percent require an associate’s degree or higher for outside sales jobs.

The survey uncovered some concern over new employee knowledge of the industry. Nearly 60 percent of respondents said that new employees did not have a solid understanding of the industrial distribution industry, while 52.8 percent said new hires did not understand their role in the success of the organization.

Terry Knight is a top executive charged with the responsibility for strategic sales and business development with SKF USA Inc., a manufacturer of industrial products and services, supported by some 7,000 distribution firms and dealers worldwide.

Knight, who also serves as the volunteer chair of the ICP Steering Committee, a cross-industry alliance of industrial distribution associations, said: “The importance of a strong distribution network cannot be underestimated. Manufacturers are dependent upon this network to reach all aspects of the marketplace, provide feedback and be an important link in the supply chain.

“The NAW Institute survey reinforces that our industries need to reach new potential employees right now … and this is one of the critical goals ICP is working on.”

For more information: industrialcareerspathway.org.

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