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I regularly get calls from plastics companies all around the country that are having a tough time finding technical candidates with plastics experience. Many of these positions require someone with a degree. The conversation usually starts off like this: "Dan, we have been looking for several months for a (insert title) and haven't found anyone. I thought it would be a lot easier to find someone since the unemployment rate has been around 8 percent for quite some time."
There are a few reasons why this is happening.
The first is that for the year 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the average unemployment rate for those who held degrees and were 25 years and older was right around 4 percent. Many experts consider 4 percent unemployment to be full employment.
On top of that, these companies need someone who has experience within their specialty — injection molding, blown film, extrusion, etc.
If you find that perfect candidate, one problem that might keep him or her from joining your firm is the housing market — it's still bad for selling a house. Many candidates either don't want to relocate or can't relocate. I have seen many candidates who don't want to relocate because they are afraid that they won't be able to sell their house quickly and can't afford to take on two mortgages. I have also seen candidates who simply can't relocate because they are underwater on mortgages. This issue will likely extend into the foreseeable future and affects all types of positions, not just technical ones.
Another issue is there are very few companies that want to train new employees. Most firms want to hire someone with experience. While that is good for the recruiting profession, it is not good for the long-term health of a company. Unemployment will continue to go down and baby boomers who have been putting off retirement will soon retire, making many more positions difficult to fill.
Robert Grace in his Jan. 4 Perspective said, "Many technically qualified engineers were laid off or left the industry during the recent recession, and now, with business on the increase for many, the talent pipeline has dried to a trickle." He goes on to give many great suggestions about the topics of workforce development, education, training, recruitment and retention. I highly recommend that you read this article if you haven't done so already.
There are a couple of things that can be done to offset these issues:
• If your company is already having problems filling positions, now is a good time to start implementing a new process to train employees. Yes, it will be an investment of time and money, but it will pay off in the long run when your competitors are falling behind because of a lack of qualified candidates. Plastics News' Executive Forum 2013, which will address these issues, is a good place to start for ideas. All candidates, especially technical candidates, are only going to become more difficult to find.
• When relocating someone, offer a reasonable relocation package. It needs to be a package that doesn't let the candidate take all the risk in this housing market.
• If you are not able to offer a relocation package, perhaps it might be best to work with a local recruiter who doesn't necessarily have to know plastics, but knows the local market and specializes in technical positions. If you were to be flexible on some of your requirements, you might find some good people right in your backyard that could get up to speed quickly with a minimal learning curve.
Dan Regovich is the owner of AJ Augur Group LLC of Mentor, Ohio, an executive search firm specializing in the plastics industry.