The Manufacturing Executive
The Manufacturing Executive

Episode · 1 year ago

Doing the Dirty Work: How to Find Qualified, Consistent Labor w/ Gary Konarska

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

We hear grumblings about automation taking away job opportunities. But inside the manufacturing sector, companies are struggling to find high quality, consistent human laborers.

The real challenge facing the industry is this: Baby Boomers are exiting the workforce, and there aren't enough people in the skilled trades to replace them.

Gary Konarska, Executive Director & CEO at American Welding Society, joined this episode of the podcast to discuss how to attract and retain high quality labor.

Gary and I talked about:

  • The opportunity cost of college and the value of learning a skilled trade 
  • How to address the shortage of welders
  • Ways to attract fresh talent through creating great content
  • How to upskill the current welding workforce

Resources we talked about:

To ensure that you never miss an episode of The Manufacturing Show, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, or Spotify, or here.

And I think over time, and it's really been probably a two decade journey, that that pendulum has started to Swig back where the emphasis on vocational skills, bringing back those types of programs into the high school level and then into the post secondary level as really started to gain stee. Welcome to the manufacturing executive podcast, where we explore the strategies and experiences that are driving midsize manufacturers forward. Here you'll discover new insights from passionate manufacturing leaders who have compelling stories to share about their successes and struggles, and you'll learn from B tob sales and marketing experts about how to apply actionable business development strategies inside your business. Let's get into the show. Welcome to another episode of the Manufacturing Executive podcast. This show is being brought to you by our sponsor, codemas part solutions. I'm Joe Sullivan, your host and a cofounder of the Industrial Marketing Agency grilla seventy six so we talked a lot on this show about top line growth, sales marketing, lead generation and so on. Attracting, engaging, winning and retaining great customers is really hard work, but so is attracting, engaging hiring and retaining great employees. If you talked to the average person in the general public, if you'd probably hear grumblings about automation and other technology taking away job opportunities from the workforce. But when I look inside the manufacturing sector, what I see is one company after the next struggling to find high quality and consistent Labor. The reality today is that many people don't want to do the dirty jobs, work night shifts, operate heavy machinery and on top of that, in many cases not enough skilled labors are being trained to replace those that are on their way out. So in today's episode we're going to tackle some of this head on. My guest is Gary Canarska, the executive director and...

CEO of the American Welding Society, or aws. Day. Has Spent more than twenty years in the welding and automation industry, most recently working for the Lincoln Electric Company, where he held roles including vice president of global automation, Managing Director of Southeast Asia, Korea and Taiwan, based in Singapore, and director of Business Development based in Shanghai, China. Throughout his career, gary is focused on sales, strategic planning, International Business and foster relationships among highly diverse teams. Gary, welcome to the show. Thank you, Joe. Appreciate your having me on here. Yeah, thrilled your here. Well, before we get into the Nitty Gritty, Gary, can you tell the listeners a bit about your personal journey up to this point of your career and also just tell us a little bit about aws and what you guys do over there? Yeah, sure, yeah, so, from a personal standpoint, tainted an industrial engineering degree but realize that I probably didn't want to be kind of tied to a desk or inside a facility, so I actually went into technical sales. So stayed in the industrial space but went into kind of the more dynamic aspect of sales. Spent them up seven years kind of on the streets really looking at how do I add value to an end user customer. So that was one of the beautiful things is, you know, I wasn't a product sales guy's a solution sales guy early on, and so you know, early in my career I was really trying to help people be more productive and effective in their operations. Had the unique opportunity to actually work as a next Patriot, which was supposed to be a two year assignment but I end up actually spending ten years living and working in Asia. So kind of went over as kind of a senior level sales guy trying to mentor some local resources, but that kind of expanded into kind of regional subject matter expert type roles and then eventually moving on to, you know, director of Business Development as well as a bandaging director role for about a thirteen country region in Southeast Asia. You know, after that, as I repatrioted back in the US, you...

...know, I move back to Cleveland Ohio and I kind of left kind of the core business, which was product based, and went into the automation industry. So still with the same organization but focused on providing, firstly, arc welding robotic solutions, so basically addressing that skilled labor shortage or trying to help increase productivity of manufacturers. That eventually took on a role where at actually thirteen locations around the world that we're doing all kinds of automation from material handling the laser processing welding processes. So kind of quite the start as a sales guy to eventually leading a pretty substantial footprint as a business leader good background. And and now with aws, can you, can you talk a little bit just for anybody who's unfamiliar about sort of what aws is and does? Yeah, yeah, thanks. Yeah. So I joined a debus just here in April of two thousand and twenty, and so the mission of the American Welding Society is to advance the scientific technology of welding, joining and allied processes. So we are the recognized body that's created the standards at which US manufactures in particular, adhere to from a welding standpoint. So if there's any type of code quality welding, any type of classifications on welding products such as welding consumables, those would adhere to the standards that were developed by aws. We also actually provide certification program so our largest program being a program called the certified welding inspector, who actually there are kind of a they work in the quality assurance space, looking at the reliability as well the safety of welded products. And so we are an industry trade association. We do also have individual membership, which is nearly seventyzero members of the aws, both here domestically as well as international. So I mean we're here to support the welding community. Know, our...

...job is kind of dual. Focus is to provide services to the welding community, but also one of our core missions that we have is that we promrely promote through our what we call the AWS Foundation, is to help address the shortage of welding personnel in Industry today, and so that is actually something that I personally am passionate about. Is One of the interesting things that as I looked at this opportunity to join a ws was really kind of that balance between running a business but also giving back to in this case the welding community. And so hopefully, you know, today we'll talk a bit about some of the things that we're doing, not just here at aws, but also kind of what industry participants can do the kind of do this at a local level to help you as a a manufacturer. Yeah, that's exactly, I think what what made me say I think Gary would be a great guest on this show because it's, as I alluded to in the intro to this conversation, one of the things I hear most commonly for manufacturers is it's really difficult to find high quality and consistent Labor to track them to retain them, and so I'd love for you to be able to, during this episode, speak to that from your experience in the welding industry, but also think of it, you know, more broadly for our audience, inside the manufacturing space, because it's absolutely a problem that you know is as as I'm sure you know, is prevalent kind of throughout manufacturing. So so tell me, I guess. Well, we start at a high level. What are you seeing on this front in terms of this the shortage in skilled labor and this gap that has to be filled? Maybe start by talking about it in the welding industry. Yeah, I mean I'll add some kind of personal anecdote to at least twenty years ago, twenty five years ago, when I was myself going through high school. You know, I was in a bit of a rural area. I grew up in Michigan, and there wasn't really vocational programs available to there were, but the types of students that were enrolling twenty five years in the...

...vocational programs for the ones that were deemed the ones not going to college right when there was a negative connotation to going and be enjoining the skilled traits and I think over time, and it's really been probably a two decade journey, that that pendulum is started to swing back where the emphasis on vocational skills, bringing back those types of programs into the high school level and then into the post secondary level as really started to gain steam. I was looking at some data I do see that we're making progress on that front, but the challenge that we face is we do the baby boomer generation. We do that there would be a large number of people exiting the workforce at some point, but we didn't really see the effects and take action probably early enough. So as we start to see more and more of this generation retiring, we don't have as many entry level people entering the industry as well, and so that's the real gap that we're really trying to address. Is We've got more people exiting and we could say skilled trades, specifically welding as well, but there's more people exiting the skilled trades that are entering the skill trades today. Yeah, that I think you sum that up really well. It's there's a book that I read recently. It's called leverage learning in the author's Danny any, and you've come across this, but it immediately struck me because the book is really about, like I'm going to read a quote here that I have bookmarked. He wrote, If not colleges, who will provide the lifelong learning of the future, from the only place that it can come from? The experts and professionals on the cutting edge and front lines of their respective fields? They're the ones whose knowledge and skills will be sufficiently up to date to provide what learners will need, while their skill level and opportunity costs will command a premium. Transformation they will deliver will justify paying for it, and I when I read...

...that book, I flag that because it's this is is so relevant, I think, in the manufacturing industry, because I've seen this, I've heard this from others, this shift you described as the pendulum swinging back toward vocational programs, in the fact that you leave high school, you go into one of these and you learn a skill and what you know that the opportunity cost of of college at this point sometimes can get almost doesn't even justify what you could be doing learning a usable skill, going into a really good job and being trained to be an expert in, you know, something like in welding, right. So I think it's really interesting. Have you you talking about this? I don't know if you agree with sort of you know that quote and what's being said there. Yeah, I mean absolutely. I mean when you look at kind of skill sets and like right now is an example. I'm looking to hire a director of global sales and I'm looking at the experiences that individual has, you know, the skills that they've developed of the course of their career. And I actually just made this joke. I looked at a number of great candidates. I couldn't tell you what what university. Any of them went right. It's not really at this point of this type of role. It's really about the experiences that they gained. Now, when you look at a role like a skilled trade right, experience it really what makes that role so important. But getting that foundational start, that's where the vocational programs, a continuing technical education programs, getting that Salad Foundation, you learning the basic ways to approach problem solved right. That's what's so important for that longer term career where you can maximize earning potential long term. I mean if you look at and I have some data on the welding industry in particular. Now the median income is about forty three thousand dollars right. mean, that sounds like a pretty good start. If I'm looking at I've just graduated high school,...

I'm looking at my options, I can look at a continuing technical education program you know, typically they have a pretty low cost to go through them. They're not typically that long, you know, often times six months to a year, right, and then you're out in the earth, in the workforce, you know, earning. Now, on the alternative, you look at college, right, many people take out loans or Sattle with high debt, right, for years, if you're lucky, typically five, right. And then you look at now, you look at starting to earn. So you dig this whole, you create this debt and long term, is the earning potential maybe higher? Yeah, you could say that there is the potential that over the course of a forty year career that the earning potential could be higher. However, at what point does that cross? Because now, if you've gone into a vocational program you started earning at, let's say nineteen years old. You don't have debt at that point. So you've got a four year head start. You've also now, you know, been building your experience, which means you're more qualified for further roles and you continue to expand upon your skill set because in most skilled trades there is progression to be made. Right there's more difficult machinery run as a machinist, there's more difficult welding processes to learn. It can progress to running automated equipment doing those processes. So there's tremendous career opportunity within these different skill trades that can really make a great career for an individual. I love it, totally love it. So give some contexts maybe for listeners here from maybe what you guys. I know you've mentioned that there are things you're doing at the American Welding Society, initiatives you have underway that sort of address this welder shortage specifically. Can Talk a little bit about that sure now highlight a few of the different things we're doing here at aws. So, you know, one of the things that we recognize is that, you know, for those that are leaving high school, it's...

...important for the parents as well as the students to understand what a career and welding might look like, and so we've created what we call a website called careers of welding. That kind of highlights a number of the different career paths that an individual can take when entering the field. Right. So we're really trying to present, you know, the knowledge process of what does it mean to become a welder? What does that look like? Now there's a lot of testimonials from actual people that are in the profession today, so they can learn to identify with, you know, what does the future look like if I go into this particular field? We're also doing a number of things financially. So we have the aw US foundation, and the AWS foundation is our arm that's really looking at direct support to the industry. As an example, in two thousand and nineteen, we actually gave out one point eight million dollars in scholarships and grants across the United States. From a scholarship standpoint, that was more than one tho individual students received a scholarship from aws to basically go and attend some type of welding related program so that could be actually learning to weld itself, it could be going to get an associate's degree in welding technology or even a four year engineering degree and a university as well, and so in addition to that, we then have offered a series of grants to education facilities, so whether to expand the capacity of an existing program to meet increase demand in that area, or even to help school start a welding program right. So there's some specific campaigns to actually focus in the places that need to introduce or want to introduce welding into their curriculum or the vocational programs. And so when we look at we're really he's trying to get into the career entry point, attracting people to welding as a career. Right. Another thing that...

...we do is we have something called we have a welding mobile trailer that travels around that tends things like the state fairs, right, the future farmers of America Annual Convention, Shit Boy Scouts of America Annual Convention, and on that. There's these welding simulators, right. And so the welding similar. It's a virtual reality system, right, and that virtual reality system actually gives it a student or anybody and opportunity to try welding basically in your t shirt and shorts, right. So it gives you that real life experience, even gives you the sound. It doesn't give you the smell of the heat, but it does give you the chance at least try the skill to say hey, do I have an aptitude for this? It gives great exposure and actually during those events we run a competition for those virtual reality machines actually score your weld the highest score of every one of those events earned a scholarship to a welding program. So we're trying to generate awareness that you know, you can have a great career in something like welding and really trying to get out and bring people into the industry is kind of a lot of our focus. We're going to take a thirty second breather here for a word from our sponsor, cadinus part solutions. Let's talk real quick about getting specified. Are you a component manufacturer? Maybe you sell architectural products to parks or large facilities. Engineers and architects need models of your products to test fit in their designs. That's where candinis comes in to help you create a dynamic, shareable cad catalog you put on your website. Designers can preview the product from any angle and download it in the format they prefer. They get the data they need for their design and you get a fresh lead to add your marketing pipeline. To get one of your products turned into an online d model for free, use the code executive at part Solutionscom slash executive. You know, there's a staggering parallel for...

...me, as a guy who's come up in marketing and sales, to between lead generation for new business and attracting talent, at least in the way I believe it should be done. And we have on our gorilla site, if you go into the career section, you'll see we have a separate blog called to get a job blog. Well, our made main blog is focused on helping manufacturers figure out how to do sales and marketing. It's just purely insightful, resourceful information. But are get a job blog, which is sort of in its infancy. But our objective is to help teach people who are either, you know, in college or or prior or in the marketing into trying to break into the marketing news industry, help them learn what skill sets they need to acquire, how they can be successful trying to get into marketing. And you know, as a result of this we attract a lot of really great market young marketing candidates and so it's very similar thing to what you're doing. You're becoming the resource, the organization that's helping people, you know, sort of picture for themselves or paint a picture of what a career could look like, put themselves in that situation, make it tangible, like the ver to reality thing you just described. Is such a great idea of the separate website that's purely about you know, careers and welding, and I think there's a lot that even a small or midsize manufacturer can take from this, because you can kind of do the same thing, you know, regardless of whether you're a CNC machining company or a, you know, equipment manufacturer or a contract manufacturer of some kind. You think about the type of people that you're trying to track that are so hard to attract, and can you be a resource to them and open up conversations and help them picture what it would be like to have a career not only at where you are, but at your in your organization, but in this industry? It's a really smart thing to do. So I love it. Yeah, I mean when we look at what can somebody do at the local level, right. So, you know, I'm a small to medium size manufacturally anywhere in the US. Right.

We always say get engaged. So get engaged at the local vocational programs. You know, offer apprenticeship, offer internships. Right. Normally you think of internships in the marketing space, the engineering space. But a welder, right, a kid going through welming school, also needs some real life experience as well. Right. So look at program where you part time. They could come in and be a helper. Right. Often Times, you know, just like any career progression, when somebody that has less experience, they may come in and do a little more simple tasks, right, that then freeze up those that are more experienced to work on the more complex tasks. Right. But getting engaged at that local level and if you really form a close relationship with those schools, over time, what ends up happening is those that do a great job of supporting the program start to receive the benefits of you know, hey, I've got a really good student coming through. If you're in the market to find a good welder, right, here's here's your individual you start to kind of have that where you know it's a it's a give and take and it's a mutual beneficial relationship to those schools and to that organization. It's such a good point, Gary, and I see it in my world to I think. I'm sure this this point transcends welding and manufacturing. It's certainly. President, in my world we're about two miles down the road from Washington University in St Louis, which is where I went to college. Their program there is they produced great designers. You know, there's a visual communications program. You know, University of Missouri Columbia's got one of the best journalism schools in the country and they're there, you know, a few hours down the road. Of course we're talking about universities there, but the point is, you know, we've built relationships inside of the journalism school there, inside of Washington University's Visual Communications Program, and we're always getting great candidate's. A lot of our employees are best employees over time, have come out of those programs because they know that that, you know, girls of a place...

...people have enjoyed working, they've had started their careers here, they've had we have had a lot of inter earns from these places and there's no reason why this same thing can't be happening in welding or other areas of manufacturing, you know, and you get you can get really great work done to you kind of set it like if you can delegate, take the things that can be you know, a process that can be taught. That's now you're you're delegating work from your full time, full salaried employees down to more junior people who are using that to learn and gain real hands on experience and it's there's just benefits for everybody there. So I'm glad you brought that up. Is there anything you're seeing from other organizations or companies, you know, to things are doing to upskill the welding workforce so people are armed with the right skills to meet demand, you know, other things outside of what you've talked about with with aws? Yeah, I mean one one thing that we have seen, and it tends to be more than medium to larger size organizations, you know, are doing more focus work on inhouse training, right, you know, actually doing more from a structured staypoint of bringing in an employee without the skills and starting to give them the skills either on the job or through a structured training program right, you know, anymore you know, just like you know this may be a live thing in the future for you. Right now it's all virtual, but there's a plus Thora of great learning tools available now that are online, right, whether from monster from other providers and other skilled trades area. There's a lot of online learning that is really readily available and they're great programs as well. And so, as a meet small to medium sized manufacture partner with organizations that have those develop you know, programs, right, they can help you at learning paths. Right. You know, I'm actually you know now we're working with some parts of industry where there's a need that's unfulfilled. And so, you know, as a small the medium size organization,...

...you might not be able to stand up your own training program but working with program with partners out there, you know, they can look at well, I have ten partners, I have fifty, or I have an entire industry like for us that has a need and as more people understand what that need is, which in this particular example would be, you know, in house training, then those needs can be met by various types of organizations. Right. So I do see that there's more and more of that that's happening, of people recognizing that. Okay, if I can't just hire the skill set that that's that I'm looking for. And you know right now, even in these times, are still a hundred thousand, hundreds of thousands of openings across the US or skilled trades, in this particular example, welding. Right, I may need to do something to bring in somebody that doesn't have the exact skill set that I need and help them to develop those skill sets. Right. When you look at kind of the current generation workforce, one of the things you talk about when people say how much they're engage or like their organization is that investment into the employee, right, that personal development, that professional development that the organization provides. Now that's one of the number one factors why people would stay at a place like guerrilla right, is they're not just staying stagnant. They're not coming in with the skill and that's all they've got. Each day and month and year that goes by they build their skill set and when you're small the medium sized company, it's hard to formalize those process I think that's kind of one of the things when you're looking at skilled trades in particular, you've got to look at potentially formalizing some of these processes right, but you don't have to do it alone. There are people out there, there's there's organizations that focus primarily on this that can help you to develop those inhouse programs. Well, I know the younger generations are looking for it to that's you know, it's becoming more important for them to. They value...

...it advancement in their career and learning and gaining skills more than past generations. Like there's enough to date out there that represented it. It's not just about having a stable income. There's a when they feel like they're learning and growing, it matters a lot. What would you say to incumbent workers, like what skills should they continue to build through ongoing training so that they can remain competitive? I mean in most the skilled trades, technology is becoming are of whether it's the the equipment itself, how the job is actually done. But there there is a technology component that that's already here and will continue to grow. Grow it and pliberation across manufacturing, you know. So if today, and I'll use welding as an example of today, I'm a welder, you know I need to start building my understanding of how to run and they see and see equipment perhaps I need to learn how to program a robot. Right, there's technologies that are being introduced and even across small the medium size manufacturers are probably adopting them as fast at this point as larger scale manufacturers. is to build that technological understanding right and to start that process of learning right. So, whether you're learning technology, whether you're practicing your skill set, but you've got to be developing yourself beyond just on the job. I'm doing my job, therefore I'm learning. You've got to go a little bit beyond that. That might mean after work you got to spend thirty minutes or an hour, you know, utilize the tools, if your employers allows you to do that, to kind of build up your skills. Right. If I use wellthing as an example, there's many different processes. Right, the more process is that you're proficient at, the more valuable you vote, more valuable you are as as a welder. Right, if you're a machinist, the more types of machines that you can run, the different brands, the more valuable you are to an employer. Right. So continuing to upscale, to expand...

...your knowledge and the technology piece is the most important probably long term, because as we talked about things like industry four, we talked about automation, right. I mean they're the industry four is monitoring equipment that either the GE's either maintained or operated by a human today, right, at some point in the future, like at one of the other podcast you had talked about, technology is here and humans are here and that interaction is happening. It's happening now, it's going to continue to happen. You know, how do you get on the leading edge of being that robot programmer right, of learning how to analyze data? Today I'm a welder, but if I understand the process, I understand the variables that make me go faster or slower. How could I translate that to a shop wide solution to help my employer to say today we only weld this much, if we were to take data around this we could probably improve our productivity by five percent, ten percent. Small increments like that or the course of time are massive productivity games for the employer. But that's all around technology and the application of it and using robotics that have direct experience in that. You know, we always used to say is it's easier to teach a welder how to program a robot than a robot programmer how to well, right, you know, do you think about programming? Programming a pretty linear process. Typically you can kind of learn the steps. You could study the steps even and become proficient at that, at least small the base, medium type the proficiency. As a welder, you can't learn that in a book. It's all time actually physically doing that. So when you think about that, to learn to program versus to learn to weld, if you don't...

...spend the time under the hood in this particular case, right, it's much more difficult. So as you think about more robotics, more automation, there's still typically need a welder to actually operate that equipment. Will Gary, I'm more accustomed to talking sales and marketing and so this was a really interesting conversation for me and I think all of your experience bring such a great perspective to this really real challenge with closing the skills gap and finding good labor. So I appreciate you coming on the show. Can you tell listeners where they can connect with you online and how they can learn more about what aws is doing? Yeah, so the primary website is aws doto rg right. So that's the best place to learn more about what we're doing. Is American wellming society. You Know My name, Gary Could Arsk. You can find me on Linkedin. I enjoyed to grow my network. Really enjoyed following a gorilla seventy six a particular because joe is very good about, you know, offering, you know, tangible insight that you can actually go out and start applying. Right. So those are probably the two best ways if you want to get more information and if you want to reach out to me directly to learn more about some of the things I've done in the past. Is something we're doing in the future. I'm very open to anybody reaching out. If I can help, I would love to do that. Beautiful well, I would encourage all of you listeners to take Gary up on that offer. Well, before we wrap it up, I want to say a quick thank you again to our sponsor, codinis part solutions, for helping make this episode reality and Gary, thank you for being on the show today. Really appreciate you taking the time on your day to do this. It was a really interesting conversation. I know everybody's going to get a lot of value out of this. Yeah, thank you, Joe, for having me great well, for the rest of you, I hope to catch you on the next episode of the Manufacturing Executive. You've been listening to the manufacturing executive podcast. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player.

If you'd like to learn more about industrial marketing and sales strategy, you'll find an ever expanding collection of articles, videos, guides and tools specifically for bedb manufacturers at Gorilla Seventy sixcom learn thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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