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Finding and acquiring great talent can be difficult at any time. Throw in a pandemic and it becomes a nightmare for a manufacturing industry that has been experiencing workforce challenges for years.

Overall, the U.S. has lost nearly five million manufacturing jobs since 1997 and the pandemic led to even more losses. Recent years’ manufacturing gains were wiped out by the COVID-19 crisis—with 750,000 manufacturing jobs lost in 2020 alone according to Industry Week.

Though nearly 75% of respondents said they were either somewhat or very positive about the outlook for their company, hiring challenges and supply chain disruption are some of the lingering effects they still have to overcome according to the NAM 2020 4th Quarter Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey. That is why getting the right people in the right roles to stabilize operations is more important than ever.

At Cornerstone, we found that our most talented consultants started assignments as advisors but were soon back-filling operational roles for our clients. As these experienced managers and directors reported back, it became evident that these sorts of staffing challenges played a major role in supply chain disruption this past year.

COVID-19 guidelines and stay-at-home orders made it difficult for many manufacturing companies to maintain the staff required to continue regular operations. Few factory jobs can be performed from home, meaning that workers were some of the first to be furloughed or laid off as the production lines shut down.

Plus, close quarters provided the ideal space for COVID-19 to spread, which forced some facilities to close following outbreaks to disinfect their spaces and give employees the necessary time to recover or quarantine. According to Industry Week, many U.S. automakers halted production in response to the crisis. While some worked to keep production lines running by sanitizing facilities and staggering shifts, that became more difficult as cases of the virus began to appear.

It has been estimated that one out of every two manufacturing companies was not prepared for supply chain disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the NAM Coronavirus Outbreak Special Survey, respondents noted issues with parts arriving late and delivering to customers late as a result. While some said these disruptions were manageable early in the pandemic, they became more serious as the pandemic continued and manufacturing output decreased—and it caused a domino effect.

For example, if a plastics manufacturer was forced to close their plant due to an outbreak, the company may not have been able to supply an automotive manufacturer with a critical part for their product. That could result in a backlog of orders for the automotive manufacturer that was already struggling to keep up with increased demand.

When the automotive manufacturer could resume production, the company may still have experienced delays in delivery of their product due to shipping overloads and another workforce challenge. The trucking industry saw drivers opt to leave the labor force and were unable to fill those roles when trucking schools were closed due to the pandemic.

Even with the elevated unemployment rate due to COVID-19, many companies are still starved for good workers. According to the latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 525,000 job openings in manufacturing in October 2020—a record high. It’s more critical than ever to find and develop high-quality talent so the manufacturing industry and your company comes out of this pandemic stronger than before.

Whether you need help to better understand your workforce challenges or want to explore new ways of hiring, look no further than Premier Staffing Solution—the Cornerstone subsidiary that has re-defined staffing services. In the communities where you operate, Premier Staffing Solution is the most active and engaged recruitment partner by far. It’s a method that has proven measurably more effective to deliver the people you want and need, remarkably faster than you’d expect. ​

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