According to The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), U.S. manufacturers shed 1.4 million workers in the early days of the pandemic. Many of those jobs have returned, but a shortage of workers remains, and is likely to remain for many years. In fact, the same NAM study forecasts that 2.1 million jobs could go unfilled by 2030 with a combined industry impact of more than $1 trillion.
Worker Shortage in Can Manufacturing and Aluminum Packaging
Can makers are not immune to shortages created by the pandemic and an aging, soon-to-retire workforce. In a recent post, Alex Fordham, the owner of The Metal Packager publication, rightly asked, “What is your company doing to plan for the inevitable retirement of key personnel?”
The reality though is that these problems aren’t new. Neither are the solutions. These issues have been handled in the past and will be addressed in the future, most likey by your continuous improvement team. Let me explain.
There was a day when, in a very short period, millions of skilled and knowledgeable workers were no longer available. Was it a pandemic? Retirement? No, it was World War 2. With a sizeable number of workers called to the battlefield, an inexperienced workforce was called upon to continue production. This new workforce included many people who had never stepped foot in a factory.
Training Within Industry
To address this crisis, the U.S. government established the TWI (Training Within Industry) Program to impart essential skills to this inexperienced workforce. The training was wildly successful, having workers learn the following essential skills:
- Instruction Skills: “Job Instruction” training taught skilled workers how to break down a job to explain its complexities to an unskilled worker.
- Improvement Skills: “Job Methods” training taught workers how to improve job processes. This involves aiming to produce more quality products in less time by making better use of people, machines, and materials.
- Leading Skills: “Job Relations” training emphasizes “Respect for People,” instructing managers on how to handle people issues and even prevent them from arising in the first place.
All too often, I hear, “Well, that was back then. This is now.” implying this approach can’t or won’t work today. Toyota is just one example of a company using TWI. They adopted it after the war and still use it to this day. TWI is largely credited for shaping its continuous improvement and respect-for-people culture. There are also countless examples of companies using TWI programs to address significant issues across the US and globally.
While this is not the ONLY solution available, it is AN option if you are facing similar challenges, as evidenced by this early-pandemic article found on “HR Dive.” Those who can respond to workforce and skill shortages the fastest will win. Your competition is searching for a solution. Have you found an answer?