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The Skills We Need

There is much political focus lately on bringing jobs back to America and boosting our economy.  What is not being said is “Do we have the employees with the right skills to handle these jobs?”  Certainly some industries are feeling the pain of the “skills gap” more than others, but the need for better training in all industries is apparent.  Carolyn Lee, executive director of The Manufacturing Institute at the National Association of Manufacturers noted that retirements and new growth will require 3.5 million new manufacturing jobs to be filled by 2025.  However, if current trends hold, 2 million of those jobs are expected to go unfilled.”**

As a manufacturing company, E.A. Dion has had to deal with replacing highly-skilled retiring and exiting employees for a number of years now.  We have struggled with finding qualified candidates, and have come to the realization many companies like ours have come to – to train new recruits in-house the skills that are needed.  There just isn’t a wealth of “ready-to-go” candidates to step in for those that leave.

However, unlike a generation or two ago, employees today do not stay at the same employer for the full length of their career.  It is rare nowadays to hear of an employee having worked at a company for 35 or 40 or more years.  How can companies buck that trend in order to keep and develop the skilled employees they need?

This situation leads us back to a topic I bring up regularly – Employee Engagement and Recognition.  Employees at all levels of the company need to feel valued, heard and a part of something bigger than themselves.  In addition to teaching employees the technical aspects of their jobs, companies need to train managers in how to inspire and reward their reports.  Some consider these “soft skills” of successfully interacting with co-workers and reports to be something that can take second fiddle to other day-to-day tasks.  However, in order to keep ever more valuable employees, these employee engagement skills need to be taken just as seriously as technical skill development. 

Companies cannot take for granted that just because someone is promoted to a managerial position, that they know how to lead a team.  In most cases, it is just the opposite – they got the promotion because of their technical expertise and probably have little experience with managing others. As we look for ways to shrink the skills gap, consider the importance of Employee Engagement and Recognition training.  It may seem counterintuitive to work on these softer skills vs. the ones that directly affect the work going out the door, but it will ultimately keep the employees with the skills you need so they can benefit the company for years to come.

By Ann Condon, Communications Manager, E.A. Dion, Inc.