Companies struggle to recruit; can job fairs ease the burden?

More and more companies are feeling the symptoms of the Maintenance Crisis. Deferred maintenance is reaching chronic levels as current equipment continues to age, thus requiring more maintenance, while sophisticated, new equipment needs more care, attention and custom configuration. Companies are struggling for internal talent who can read foreign blueprints from their German, Japanese and Italian equipment suppliers.

By Joel Leonard

More and more companies are feeling the symptoms of the Maintenance Crisis. Deferred maintenance is reaching chronic levels as current equipment continues to age, thus requiring more maintenance, while sophisticated, new equipment needs more care, attention and custom configuration. Boomers are preparing for retirement, but new workers aren’t pursuing training to assume their roles. Companies are struggling for internal talent who can read foreign blueprints from their German, Japanese and Italian equipment suppliers.

Companies are very frustrated about how to recruit qualified workers, pay within the levels prescribed by corporate edicts, keep maintenance costs within budgets and generate production output at optimal levels to compete in the global marketplace. Since shareholders hold management accountable to short-term objectives, many companies are refusing to train for tomorrow and only focus on results for today. That’s why I’m delighted to have discovered that job fairs make a difference in my backyard, Greensboro, N.C.

At our most recent MPACT Skilled Maintenance & Facilities Engineering Job Fair, we had 44 participating companies including Owens Illinois, Miller Brewing, Lorillard Tobacco, Tyco Electronics, Old Dominion Freight, Pepsi Bottling, Michelin and Unicco. They were striving to fill more than 300 jobs. Average pay rates ranged from $15 to $25 per hour with numerous positions for engineers and some management opportunities.

More than 700 candidates dressed to impress. More than 200 arrived early and patiently waited in line for at least 45 minutes in 90°-plus heat. Pepsi answered my cry for help and delivered 10 cases of water and drinks to ensure no one succumbed to heat exhaustion. Normally empty neighboring office parking lots overflowed. Three television news crews and several area radio stations broadcasted programs about the fair throughout the day.

The next morning brought this message from Tyco Electronics plant HR director Deborah Miller:

All I can say is WOW!

What an incredible job fair last night. I have been an HR professional for more than 20 years, and I was really impressed with the quality, preparedness and professionalism of the candidates you provided. I came home with more (suitable) resumes than I ever have before.

You have done an incredible job and I really appreciate all the work you and your team must have put in to produce such a wonderfully professional outcome.

As you well know, the Triad is in dire need of skilled labor, both mechanical and electronic. My manufacturing facility of more than 700 people struggles to find people with the skills to keep us running, 24/7.

Tyco Electronics is the world’s largest producer of electrical and electronic connectors and we have a large presence in the Triad area. We are a wonderful company with good salaries and outstanding benefits. You have done my company, and more importantly, the folks in the Triad area, a huge service.

Count me in on all your future job fairs!

If you are thinking about recruiting at a job fair and want to optimize results, here are some tips for before, during and after the event:

  • In advance, send the job fair organizers your job orders, pay scale ranges, types of qualifications and job descriptions. The more they know about your needs, the better they can fill them. Your information also could be used in media promotion to increase the candidate pool.
  • To be noticed by attendees and help them connect to your company, put your product on display.
  • To identify potential talent that can solve your biggest equipment issues, bring some of the small equipment that commonly breaks down, like motors, steam traps, etc.
  • Bring enough staff. Have greeters to collect resumes, another staff member to filter potential qualified talent, and a decision-maker to ask the most qualified the tough questions and set up follow-up interviews.
  • After the job fair, sort through the stack of resumes and invite the best candidates for preliminary interviews. Do this quickly, as other employers are vying for the same talent pool. To make sure they are considering you first, e-mail the invitations to candidates within 24 hours of the job fair.

I stand ready to help you with recruiting maintenance talent. Please feel free to contact me to brainstorm or to discuss the next MPACT Job Fair on January 11, 2007.

Contact Joel Leonard at leonard.joel@mpactlearning.com.

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