Orion Talent CEO Mike Starich works with companies like GE Energy Connections, Honda Motors, Siemens and Aggreko to fill up positions with hard-to-find skilled workers. Since the company’s launch in 1991 as a provider of military hiring solutions, matching 40,000+ veterans with more than 7,500 employers, it has expanded its service offerings and candidate pool – especially with the acquisition of RPO firm Novotus (now Orion Novotus) last year. Today, Orion Talent has 5 offices nationwide, with 250 full time employees. Starich works closely with HR teams across diverse industries to help fill difficult positions such as maintenance mechanics, production supervisors, field service technicians, manufacturing engineers and machine operators. He spoke with IndustryWeek on a variety of issues impacting the labor market, especially in the manufacturing sector.
Impact of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma
In the short-term, we will see a contraction in the labor market. Everything has stopped for the past two weeks – a lot of people couldn’t get to work or lost their jobs, unless they could work remotely. We have seen people who were about to be hired being delayed since there’s no one to process offer letters or onboard new employees. Some manufacturers are having a hard time getting their products out, some oil refineries are still down. Businesses are trying to figure out their plans going forward.
In the long-term, once the cleanup starts, over the next 12 months to 24 months, we expect to see a surge in the demand for waste removal, construction, building materials, transportation, environmental clean-up, household appliances, and furniture among others. Those companies would need to staff up. I read Hurricane Harvey caused the loss of 500,000 automobiles – those vehicles are gone. This, too, puts pressure on the labor market, and we are making adjustments to keep up. We are in touch with our customers, shifting our assets internally to adapt to this situation.
Advent of IIoT
Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, and IIoT have been going on for a few years, although they have accelerated in recent times. Unfortunately, they will diminish job offers for some. On the other hand, there will be an increase in demand for skilled workers, maybe not one-for-one, because companies are trying to cut labor costs and become more competitive. We need to keep an eye on it. While, I don’t have a specific solution, perhaps one way is to grow the economy, increasing demand for goods and services that create more jobs. Pro-growth policies should be adopted, because we cannot stop the march of the robots.
Shortage of skilled workers
In manufacturing and supply chain, we are seeing a shortage of skilled workers such as multi-craft technicians – individuals who are trained in electro-mechanical, electronics, welding, programmable logic controls, etc. Finding specific individuals with all those skills is extremely difficult, and often times manufacturing firms have to pay more or make sacrifices or build training programs to bring workers up to speed. Many follow the German model of apprenticeship to develop talent.
When an employer wants a worker with a specific skill but is not willing to train and grow the talent pool, perhaps due to budget constraint, then it becomes a zero-sum game leading to companies trading or taking skilled workers from one another.
We need to train our workers. A lot of community colleges have trade programs, but we need more of them. And veterans could play a big part in filling up those programs – each year, more than 200,000 veterans are coming out of the military with half of them taking advantage of the GI bill to enroll in certification courses or 4-year degree programs. And the GI bill pays for more than 30,000 different types of certification programs.
Also, we need to adopt growth-oriented policies which allow more training, apprenticeship, and facilitate the creation of well-paying jobs. In past years, many new jobs have been created in restaurants, hotels, and generally in the leisure industry. But these are not the best paying jobs. Traditionally, the best paying jobs have been in manufacturing, oil and gas, energy, and the supply chain sector, and we need to create more of those jobs.
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