Attracting and keeping metal fabrication workers
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Attracting and keeping metal fabrication workers

Dec 18, 2023

Offering employees opportunities to learn new skills, such as operating a coordinate measuring machine, or clearly identified growth paths in an organization can help recruit and retain talented workers. Solstock/E+

Retaining workers is a concern for any business, but metal fabricators face some unique challenges. Because the industry requires specialized skills, there is a shortage of workers who have the necessary experience to meet shops’ needs.

The physically demanding nature of the work can be a barrier to attracting workers. And because metal fabrication often involves working with heavy machinery and hazardous materials, potential employees may also see the industry as dangerous.

Metal fabrication shops often have a high turnover rate, as workers leave for better opportunities or to pursue other careers outside of manufacturing, and that makes it difficult to maintain a stable workforce and ensure continuity of operations.

To attract and retain workers, shops need to focus on creating a positive image of the industry and offering an attractive benefits package. Many shops focus on traditional benefits like health insurance, paid time off, and retirement plans. Workers of all ages value those benefits, and a comprehensive package can help bring new workers in the door and keep current employees from leaving.

In addition, consider offering employees some programs that create a welcoming and supportive work culture to keep them happy and engaged.

Because there is such a skills shortage in the metal fabrication industry, offering training and career growth opportunities can be a major motivator for current and potential workers.

On-the-job training gives new employees hands-on experience to improve their skills, and cross-functional rotations can help current employees gain experience in different jobs. When positions open up, post those jobs internally, and give current employees priority for those spots.

Mentoring is another great way to help employees develop their skills. Pair employees with experienced mentors to guide them and help them map out and achieve their career goals.

A supportive, inclusive, and safe work environment is more likely to attract and retain workers. Here are a few ideas:

Millennial and Gen Z workers often are looking for a better work/life balance. It might seem counterintuitive in a manufacturing environment, but there are many ways to offer flexibility in the fab shop.

Does your shop need every worker to be there 40 hours a week? Perhaps you could offer reduced hours or compressed workweeks. Flexible start and end times and job sharing can give your workers more autonomy in choosing their own schedule. And programs that help workers accommodate family responsibilities, like unpaid personal time and a "parent shift" from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., can be a big draw.

Attracting new employees, especially younger workers, sometimes requires thinking outside the box. Consider some nontraditional benefits.

Student Loan Repayment. Many younger workers are struggling with student debt, and employers offering student loan repayment assistance can make a big impact. This type of benefit can help employees pay off their student loans faster and reduce their financial stress.

Metal Health Support. Mental health is becoming a priority for many younger workers, and employers that offer mental health support can differentiate themselves from the competition. This can include access to counseling services, mental health days, and stress management resources.

Community Involvement. Newer workers often are passionate about making a positive impact on the world. Employers can offer opportunities for community involvement, such as volunteer days and charitable donations, to help employees give back.

Green Initiatives. Many of today's workers are environmentally conscious and appreciate employers who take steps to reduce their carbon footprint. Employers can offer programs to reduce waste, promote energy efficiency, and encourage sustainable practices in the workplace.

Metal fabrication shops must reassess their benefit packages to make sure they are staying up to date with the latest trends. By offering the types of compensation and workplace benefits that employees are looking for, you’ll create a work culture that keeps valued workers happy while encouraging new employees to join the industry—and stay for many years to come.

Student Loan Repayment. Metal Health Support. Community Involvement. Green Initiatives.