Discipline, reliability, a team-player mindset, leadership — manufacturers are looking for all these qualities in the talent they recruit. What if companies could tap into a population not only equipped with these skills but experienced in using them in high-stakes situations?
Well, the Manufacturing Institute — the workforce development and education affiliate of the NAM — has good news, if you haven’t heard it already: this population exists, and its military talent. Transitioning service members, veterans, National Guard members, reservists and military spouses have a wealth of skills and experience that translate easily into a manufacturing context.
So how can manufacturers reach these workers and make the best use of them? The MI recently convened both military and manufacturing leaders in Fayetteville, North Carolina, for its third Workforce Solution Series event, where they answered this question and offered a range of useful advice.
Major General Eugene J. LeBoeuf, Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army Reserve Command, highlighted the talents and skillsets that Army reservists can offer the manufacturing industry, including agility, a can-do attitude and a thorough grounding in engineering, logistics and mechatronics.
With nearly 190,000 soldiers, the Army Reserve comprises much of the readiness force of the U.S. Army. Many of these reservists are underemployed or unemployed, which means they represent an opportunity for manufacturers.
Manufacturers interested in hiring from this labor pool can partner with the Private Public Partnership Office, which connects companies with reservists at no cost.
Several panelists emphasized the importance of developing recruitment processes that encourage military talent to apply and interview for manufacturing jobs.
“Make sure that the requirements you’re listing in your position descriptions are actually required. Do you really need someone to have a master’s degree to get the job done?” asked Rob Patton, Vice President of Fayetteville Cumberland Economic Development Corporation.
As a recently transitioned service member, James Goppert, HR Business Partner at WestRock, explained some of the challenges that military talent may face when entering the workforce: “Having to explain military skills and certifications to a civilian in an interview was strange. It would have been helpful to have someone on the other side who understood my experiences.”
Jennifer Goodman, Senior Manager of Talent Initiatives at Coca-Cola Consolidated, drew on her experiences as a military spouse: “Military spouses are 92 percent women and have a 22 percent unemployment rate. That’s a huge labor pool that’s going underemployed or unemployed.”
While relocation is often a concern for companies, Goodman points out that it does not have to be a disadvantage: “Think of manufacturers who have locations across the country. Maybe you can start a military spouse at one location and then move them to another. Or, if they’ve proven themselves after a few years, you could transition them to remote work.
“The benefits don’t stop with the one military spouse you hire,” she added. “We’re a very loyal community with great word of mouth and a larger referral network.”
“Don’t underestimate the value of an event like this Solution Series can have. You can take the information, energy and passion that you get from meeting with people who have the same goal of building a stronger economy and use it to power you forward,” said Nathan Huret, Economic Development Director for Catawba County.
To get started, check out the many resources of the MI’s Heroes MAKE America initiative at themanufacturinginstitute.org, which prepares prospective military workers for new and rewarding careers in manufacturing.