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Metalcasting’s Recruiting Challenge

Shannon Wetzel

In my 16 years covering the metalcasting industry, finding and retaining personnel has always been a challenge. Myriad factors contribute and no single solution exists to solve what is becoming a crisis. 

In a study published in May 2021 by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, 2.1 million manufacturing jobs could go unfilled by 2030. In the AFS Quarterly Metalcasters Outlook Survey of the first quarter of 2021, labor shortage was overwhelmingly the top concern for U.S. foundries. With metalcasters optimistic for growing sales in the near short term, 61% of respondents were looking to increase their employee head count in the coming months. Yet, according to the Deloitte study, today, manufacturers are finding it 38% harder to find workers than in 2018.

But the situation isn’t hopeless. Universities, foundries, suppliers, and associations like FEF and AFS are working on many angles to solve the recruiting challenge. Metalcasters are becoming more creative in their recruitment efforts, offering bonuses and increased training, advertising on billboards and via social media, and allowing flexible and part-time hours.  

Last month, the AFS Washington Office sent letters to the governors of the top casting states encouraging them to opt out of the extended unemployment benefits policy, which is slated to go through September. AFS explained that because vaccines are now available and foundries are providing safe workplaces, the extended benefits are no longer warranted and are “jeopardizing our nation’s ability to manufacture the products needed in our modern economy.”   

Advocating for more investment in training a skilled new generation of metalcasters and manufacturers is also one of AFS’ priority legislative issues in 2021.
In this issue of Modern Casting, we also share examples of foundries and colleges finding ways to make the metalcasting industry attractive to bright students. On page 14, read how Metal Technologies Inc. has partnered with Trine University to recruit new employees and provide valuable training and education to existing employees. 

“In an industry that is maybe less enticing than a tech job on a coast, we are making sure that promising young students and current employees realize MTI is here for the long haul––and that our success only comes from their success,” said Nick Heiny, vice president, administration, and general counsel at MTI.
MTI also runs a leadership development program that employees apply for and is then customized to an individual’s goals and needs. It’s a unique and noteworthy way to provide a career path to employees while also ensuring the long-term success of the company. 

Exciting research is another way to tempt young workers to the industry, as showcased in the article “Casting for Battle” on page 32. The story details a project conducted at Worcester Polytechnic Institute for the U.S. Army to develop a mobile foundry that can remelt scrap from a unit’s location to create needed replacement parts—eliminating months-long lead times. The lead investigators have noted one of the benefits of the project beyond military readiness is its high-tech appeal to students. 

“One thing that I’m really happy about is that through this project, because we are integrating all those modern technologies ... we have been able to attract three first-year engineering students from WPI to join our team,” said Jianyu Liang, principal investigator and WPI engineering professor.

FEF for its part provides an essential link from university to industry, connecting students with jobs and companies with fresh minds. It’s why we include our College Connection column in every issue of Modern Casting (see page 48)—to promote the incoming generation of metalcasting leaders while also providing students success stories that might steer them to this industry as they weigh their own career choices.

Competition for skilled workers will continue to be fierce for metalcasters and manufacturers, but as long as the industry continues to take a multi-pronged approach to attacking the challenge, the battle is not lost.