Tight Recruiting for Skilled Hourly in SC

· by Herb Dew

Herb is the CEO of HTI. He founded HTI in 1999 along with John Knight and David Sewell, and remains heavily involved in the organization today.
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It’s interesting. Back when I was in high school, it was not unusual for some of my friends to go to a technical school versus a 4 year college to earn a degree. They were good technically, but didn’t want (or were not able) to get through the engineering schools curriculum in order to complete their degree. Now many of these friends of mine earn $75,000-$100,000 a year…..and they are technicians and machinists working for great companies.

Our biggest challenge recruiting in our state is the vast shortage of bright, capable, skilled hourly workers. Nowadays, a “skilled hourly” worker is darn close to being an engineer. The technology you work with in most manufacturing facilities requires that the people maintaining that equipment be versatile in both electrical and mechanical technologies. Machinists (people who turn metal or plastic into amazing products) are becoming equally hard to find. Why are we seeing such a dangerous shortage? Isn’t there a nationwide recession? Doesn’t the nation face a 9% unemployment rate?

The answer is simple…the number of unemployed, skilled hourly workers is far lower. I would wager a guess that it’s as low as 2-3%. And statistically in good times that rate of unemployment would indicate a severe shortage.

At HTI, we have attacked this issue on the part of our bigger customers. We are working on a wide range of ideas that can look at filling short term needs, but also ideas that address a longer range problem. What are we doing? First, we re-structured our recruiting function to create a highly skilled, separately managed “skilled hourly team” that has as its focus skilled hourly recruiting. We have begun communicating closely with Technical Colleges offering both certificate programs as well as Associates degrees in applicable areas. Our plan is to push recruiting all the way back to high schools. Why high schools?

It’s simple. There are many kids in high school who are good at math and are technically strong that don’t know the incredible earning potential out there. Our society has mistakingly suggested that you had to get a “4 year degree” to be successful. So you see kids go off to college, sometimes struggle and drop out, or get degrees in areas that they then find hard to use, and they end up in some industry that doesn’t interest them. So we are going to try to partner with companies, Tech Schools and the state to get the message out that “we need you!”

Keep watching us here at HTI. We are continuing to lead the way in innovative strategies for recruiting here in the Southeast.

This is a complex problem we face. The State has got to address this. If we can take the lead on this issue, companies will look favorably at us when selecting where to locate a high technology facility – the kind of facilities we want in SC.

Herb Dew