The manufacturing industry both in West Michigan and beyond continues to face challenges when it comes to talent acquisition, retention and career development. This hasn’t just begun in the last year and a half — it’s been a pervasive issue for decades. With an increasing skills gap and a greater portion of the existing labor pool reaching retirement age, companies struggle to fill open positions and keep them filled. Competition is high and qualified workers are highly coveted.
Despite these obstacles, leaders in many industries, from automotive and industrial to furniture production and personal care product development, are not only optimistic about the future but confident in and committed to keeping their businesses — and the West Michigan market — thriving.
While there are obvious motivations to sustain their own businesses, there also is a passion for the community and its success that drives leaders to find creative solutions to collective concerns. Whether it’s benchmarking to measure improvements, brainstorming innovative hiring and professional development strategies, idea and best practice sharing, advocacy for change or partnering with local educational institutions, some of the largest manufacturers in the region are collaborating for the greater good of all.
This strategy is what drives The Right Place Inc. Manufacturers Council, founded in 1989 to bolster the efficacy of the region’s manufacturing industry and establish it as an international center for manufacturing productivity. A member-driven organization, the council is a confidential group of peers from a variety of manufacturing verticals — as well as some competitors — who come together for regular roundtable sessions, plant tours and one-on-one meetings to help one another navigate the ever-changing landscape.
With the talent market as competitive as it is, you’d think that recruiting and retention practices would be tightly held secrets, but it’s just the opposite: Members of the council are eager and grateful to have a sounding board. Whether it’s providing details to a more equitable profit-sharing model for staff or demonstrating how a workshop helped improve safety and efficiency on the floor, these opportunities to exchange have proved to be immeasurably beneficial.
“There’s a common bond between those who participate in the council,” said Peter Hungerford, member and executive vice president and chief strategy officer at ADAC Automotive. “We have a fundamental desire to see our community prosper and grow, and that also means helping the people within the community, whether it’s providing jobs or investing in training or creating career opportunities. Every council member — and their companies — is committed to the community, and being willing to share, network and learn from each other is a testament to this.”
Members of the council also are working together to shed a more favorable light on manufacturing and attract high school- and college-aged students to this promising career path.
“We’re collaborating and leveraging tools, such as LinkedIn, to show manufacturing presence in West Michigan and to demonstrate just how cool it is,” said Ann Mason, member and vice president of supply chain and operations at Perrigo Oral Care, a Perrigo Company. “And yes, there’s competition for talent, but there’s also a strong desire to keep these professionals in West Michigan — no matter which of our member’s companies they choose to work for.”
The manufacturers council also cultivates relationships with entities such as West Michigan Works! and the Discover Manufacturing program, while also leveraging the consulting services of the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center West (the Center West) — all with the aim of adding value to members. To learn more about joining the council, contact Rene Booker at (616) 301-6247 or email@example.com.