The International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers claims there is a shortage of machinists and skilled manufacturing workers that will grow to 14 million by 2020.
There are many reasons why high school graduates are not enamored with a skilled factory job: students avoid math and science classes as boring and tough; shops avoid investing in training only to see their experienced help jump for higher pay; and manufacturing, particularly metalworking, rightly or wrongly, carries a dirty hands image.
Fortune magazine's annual list of "100 Best Companies to Work For" (Feb. 4, 2008) doesn't help that image. Scanning it gives us a clue to part of the problem. Manufacturing companies are conspicuous by their absence. The list of 100 large companies--they have to be seven years old and employ 1,000--includes only nine manufacturing companies, such as Nike, Cisco, Sherwin-Williams and Texas Instruments. None represented the metalworking industry, leaving the impression there are no "best companies to work for" in metalworking.
Another list developed by Great Place to Work Institute, headquartered in San Francisco, was researched for the Society for Human Resource Management and published in its HR magazine. It contains the 50 Best Small (50 to 250 employees) & Medium (251 to 999 employees) Companies to Work for in America. That list included only nine manufacturing companies; only one could I decipher as a metalworker.
A decade old
The idea of developing such a "best companies to work for" list started with two journalists, Robert Levering and Milton Moskowitz. They turned their findings into a book in 1984 and updated it in 1993. The massive effort for an annual Fortune cover story was launched in 1998. Levering and consultant Amy Lyman got together to launch a consulting firm based on the research which the author claims is the largest simultaneous employee survey in corporate America.
For the current list, more than 105,000 employees from 446 companies responded to a 57-question survey. The authors explain two-thirds of the company's score is based on the returns of that questionnaire which is sent to a minimum of 400 randomly selected employees at each company.
That survey queries the workers on their attitude toward management, job satisfaction and camaraderie. The remainder is based on the author's evaluation of each company's response to the Institute's Culture Audit that asks about demographic makeup...