QualifiedFinding, developing and retaining the skilled workforce of tomorrow is one of the most significant challenges facing equipment manufacturers today.

A 2016 report by the Conference Board, a leading global economic resource organization, found retiring Baby Boomers are leaving their jobs faster than young workers can replace them, particularly in manufacturing and the skilled trades.

The skilled worker shortage is a problem of ever-growing significance, and the onus is on equipment manufacturers to find ways to connect with young people and convince them a career in the skilled trades is a great way to make a living.

According to Rusty McCarty, CEO of CustomEd, a nonprofit educational organization that provides customized educational programming for a wide variety of cause-based initiatives, there are a number of ways equipment manufacturers can go about attracting qualified future employees:

Provide opportunities for growth – It’s critical for equipment manufacturers to offer potential employees more than a job. In providing the workforce of tomorrow a pathway toward professional growth, manufacturers will not only attract qualified employees, they will retain them (and get a greater return on their investments in them).

Find ways to make direct contact – Manufacturers need to invest the necessary time, effort and resources to make a direct connection with potential employees. By putting a personal touch on recruitment efforts, manufacturers can build a rapport with younger generations and build lasting relationships.

Provide resources – The workforce of tomorrow is looking for more than just a steady paycheck. They require their employers to provide the resources necessary for sustained professional success, and they want to work in a safe, positive job environment.

Time it carefully – As is the case with most everything in life, timing makes a difference. Manufacturers should connect with potential employees at a young age and let them know about all of the opportunities available to their company's workforce.

Have a plan to build stronger connections – There’s not a ton of value to be gained in reaching out for the sake of reaching out. Manufacturers should put together an actual workforce development plan to maximize their impact.

Be authentic and trustworthy – According to McCarty, the top concerns among teenagers today are bullying and safety. That being the case, it's important for manufacturers to present themselves as trustworthy and authentic. The workforce of tomorrow wants to be able to trust the people they work for, so it’s crucial to allay any concerns potential employees have during the recruitment process.

Give tours (and don’t forget to provide a call to action) – Many manufacturers have tremendous facilities they can show off to potential employees, and they shouldn’t hesitate to offer regular tours to local students, community organizations, etc. Young people aren’t always aware of where a company’s work actually takes place, so manufacturers should make every effort to provide them with a better understanding of what it’s actually like to be an employee.

All employees are recruiters – Every employee currently working for a manufacturing company should serve as not only a brand ambassador for their organization, but also the equipment industry as a whole. Companies should make sure recruitment is included in every job description, and they should impress upon their workforce the importance of being involved in efforts to attract new talent to the company.

Where did your current team come from? – When manufacturers are looking to fill a job opening, they should determine where the individuals who previously served in such a role came from and how they made their way into the equipment industry. Then, manufacturers should map the journey backwards and attempt to recreate it.

Use your sales team – According to McCarty, companies in the equipment industry possess incredible salesforces, and manufacturers should look to leverage their salespeople to not only help sell a career in manufacturing to the workforce of tomorrow, but also build interest and excitement around potentially being employed at the organization.

Rusty McCarty was one of several speakers at AEM’s Thinking Forward conference at AGCO in Duluth, Georgia.