THE BLOG
11/19/2013 05:59 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

Sexing Up the Middle-Skill

Preparation of talent and herding skilled workers into the jobs pipeline is one of, if not the, most pressing issue that employers face. This is especially true within the middle skills sector, in which workers with more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree belong. Companies within industries such as manufacturing struggle greatly with finding and -- for lack of a better word -- seducing workers. Manufacturing, for instance, faces the problem of an aging workforce; those most equipped to handle manufacturing jobs are nearing retirement in greater and greater numbers. To have jobs available and not be able to fill them due to lack of skill and competency is not only impacting employers, but our global economy.

Employers within the middle-skill sector face a few hurdles in recruiting new talent, including: a lack of education about the various training and employment options, an outdated image of the industries these jobs fit within; and a lack of sex appeal that industries - especially web-based ones - have.

We've got to show Gen-Xers and Millennials that they have other options besides the costly college route. We have to reframe the conversation and talk about the benefits of middle-skill jobs, which put workers solidly within the middle-class. And employers have to make working for their company appealing to talent - both to lure workers into the industry and to beat out direct competition. Manufacturers have to ensure that their employees experience benefits before they broadcast that messaging. If companies can make and keep current employees happy, they'll be better able to broadcast the messaging that will make recruiting easier.

Some ways to make employees happy:

Ensuring comparable or better-than-average benefits can be one way of differentiating one manufacturer from another. The president of one Philadelphia-area manufacturer of packaging solutions for pharmaceuticals said he pays top dollar for benefits for his employees so that prospective hires choose his company over a competitor.

Manufacturing jobs have traditionally required strict adherence to breaks and lunch hour regulations and have entailed a lot of overtime. While manufacturing companies will obviously require hard work and overtime will never go away, implementing flexible time policies and enabling workers to feel a little more in charge of their schedules and work-life balance will make for happy, loyal employees.

Now we get to the messaging part.

There are many ways that middle-skill employers such as manufacturers can spread the message. The power of social media has been revelatory for many industries. Companies need to leverage their social media not just to build relationships with consumers and clients but also to facilitate the jobs pipeline. Let's leverage the power of Twitter and Facebook, two cool companies that people dream of working for, to get talent dreaming about jobs in companies such as Pressman Toy Corp. and Keryx Biopharmaceuticals Inc.

Other branded materials such as brochures and one-sheets for in-person recruiting must broadcast the same ideas; that middle-skill workers make good money and great health insurance among other things is the key message we need to share.