How wide is your door?

Manufacturers need to search far and wide to get people for the positions they are having trouble filling.

By Bob Vavra April 11, 2019

Two generations ago, Lindsay Pajet’s journey to manufacturing wouldn’t be that remarkable. The daughter of an engineer, she attended high school in the Detroit area, was a two-sport athlete and moved on to Lake Superior State University.

But in 2019, Pajet has a tale to tell, and 200 Detroit area high school students who already had an interest in manufacturing were interested to see and hear a real success story. At the annual Manufacturing in America event at Ford Field in Detroit, Pajet told these students about the path to her current engineering job at Esys Automation, a system integrator in Auburn Hills, Mich. She’s working with robotics and helping shape what’s going into the next generation of manufacturing plants.

“My dad encouraged me to give engineering a shot,” she told the students. “I fell in love with robotics at Lake Superior State. So far I am really enjoying what I’m doing, and my schooling paid off.”

It’s a pretty simple message: try a lot of things, find your passion, get your education and watch it pay off in the real world. But Pajet made one more important point, and it is a factor in the ongoing issue of finding more people like Lindsay Pajet to fill the gaping employment hole in manufacturing. She found individuals and companies willing to help her along the way.

“Many of my professors, when I didn’t think I’d be able to continue, lent a hand and guided me along the way,” she said. “I got an internship my sophomore year at DT Energy in Detroit, and I was able to see how their process worked, and how power was produced but I realized that wasn’t necessarily what I was interested in. After my junior year, I worked in Plymouth where they designed vehicle seats.

“I was able to identify where my interest lay,” Pajet added. “I was able to see what each of those companies do and that set me on the track.”

The 200 high school students who heard that and other talks at the Siemens-sponsored Student Zone at Manufacturing in America also got a look at what modern manufacturing looks like as they make their career choices. They had the opportunity to reach out and touch the future.

Manufacturing has to reach out as well.

The old-fashioned idea of apprentice programs began to resurface a few years back as manufacturers looked to jump-start the flagging interest in manufacturing as a career. We’ve worked pretty intensely to reach into the colleges and high schools, as well as recruiting military veterans and displaced workers.

The most recent Plant Engineering Salary Survey showed that while current workers overwhelmingly view manufacturing as a secure career, the top threat to manufacturing remains the lack of a skilled workforce.

One approach to address this issue is to connect the people who see manufacturing as a secure career with the people looking for that kind of security. That’s what brought Pajet back to her hometown area to begin her career, and what brought her to the Student Zone to share her story. One of the keys to that story is the mentorship and internships she experienced along the way.

Every manufacturer has to open its doors to its community, schools, veterans and employment agencies. Manufacturers need to see this issue as crucial to their survival. It’s the same kind of long-term planning done for machines and facilities—enterprise asset management for humans.

We need manufacturers to swing their doors open to reach into their communities to show more people what manufacturing really has to offer. When you open your doors wide, people like Lindsay Pajet are likely to walk through it.

Author Bio: Bob is the Content Manager for Plant Engineering.