Have you ever found yourself rejecting business opportunities due to a shortage of engineers? Are you facing challenges in attracting and retaining a highly motivated workforce?
You are not alone.
An important pillar in the global manufacturing sector, the machine tool market is expected to grow rapidly. It is powered by strong demands for high precision products, which are used within the aerospace, automobile, defence, new energy, oil & gas, mold & die, machinery, electronic & semiconductor, medical device, and many other industries.
These sectors commonly invest in CNC machines and diverse production systems for their manufacturing processes. Skilled talents from CNC machinists to mechanical engineers, production engineers, programmers, and designers are needed to operate the various CNC machines and integrated production systems.
While the demand for manufacturing roles has increased, these sectors still experience shortages of engineering and production talents, making the task of filling these positions notably challenging.
Challenges in Hiring Young Engineers
Due to a shortage of engineering and production workers, CNC manufacturers face various challenges to fulfil their production and business goals and to implement new technologies and methodologies in their manufacturing processes.
CNC manufacturers also face the challenge of replacing retiring experienced manpower with younger engineers. These newer engineers need to have the ability to justify the required skills needed in modern manufacturing processes to cater to both current and future production demands.
Given the numerous opportunities available in the CNC manufacturing industry, why aren’t more young engineers joining the sector?
Here are some of the main challenges.
View of the Industry as Traditional and Complicated
The CNC manufacturing industry is often seen as one that is manual, lagging in technology, and less glamorous compared to sectors like biotech and AI known for their rapid innovation and modernity.
Physical Demands of the Job
Young engineers may be deterred by the physical demands associated with roles in the CNC manufacturing industry. They may have the mistaken notion that they must sweat it out in a hot, humid, and dirty “shopfloor” environment, filled with greasy, noisy and heavy tools and equipment!
Limited Career Advancement Opportunities
Young graduates may see the industry as one with limited opportunities for career growth and advancement. This view, which sees the industry as providing a more linear and slow-paced career trajectory compared to other dynamic sectors, might lead to a talent drain.
Understand the Interests of Young Engineers
To address these factors, it is crucial to understand the interests and behaviours of the young workforce who may have misconceptions about careers in modern CNC manufacturing.
Young people look for challenges to grow, opportunities to try new things, and ways to excel quickly in their professions. They do not want just a job; they want a career path.
Many young people are drawn to the idea of working in a cutting-edge industry that is at the forefront of technological innovation.
By reframing the CNC manufacturing industry to be part of the wider manufacturing sector — which it most certainly is — we can emphasise its importance in the global economy and its vast potential for innovations, advancements, and career paths.
Ways to Attract Young Engineers
We need to debunk myths about the CNC manufacturing industry as being dank and dusty while showcasing how it has transformed in the age of automation and smart technologies, and the available career paths and options.
#1 Highlight Career Opportunities
👉 Is CNC manufacturing a dying trade? Absolutely not.
Today’s CNC machining industries keeps advancing and evolving in speed, accuracy, and complexity. Engineers and manufacturers play a pivotal role in driving all technological innovations and advancements here, significantly influencing both the global economy and society. For example, more precise body and dental implants, safer transportation, improved energy resources, and modern IT gadgets, just to name a few.
Question: where is the nice stylish new mobile phone coming from and how is it made actually?
To attract and retain young, skilled engineers, it is essential to provide them transparent information and ample opportunities to contribute value and foster creativity in their positions. It is equally vital to increase awareness about the diverse job prospects and career growth within the CNC manufacturing sector to attract young engineers.
By providing training and upskilling opportunities, as well as clear paths for career progression, you effectively invest in cultivating, developing, and retaining your workforce, nurturing your “next generation team”.
One of the unique things about the CNC manufacturing industry is that there are many different career paths available. Young engineers can choose to specialise not only in areas such as programming, machining, production, engineering but also in product design and development.
They may also work in a variety of different industries that utilise CNC machines. These include automotive, aerospace, defence, energy, oil & gas, mold & die, electronic & semiconductor products, as well as medical devices industries.
Here are just a few examples showing available career paths in the wider manufacturing industry:
- Tool and die maker
- CNC programmer
- Application engineer
- Manufacturing engineer
- Quality control engineer
- Service engineer
- R&D engineer
In addition to these specific career paths, talented and smart working engineers can gain more experience in manufacturing by cross-training in different departments within the company as well as the wider manufacturing sector.
As a matter of fact, many owners and executives of CNC manufacturing companies began their careers with apprenticeship or industrial attachment in mold & die making, programming, production, and progressed in their careers as they gained valuable knowledge, experience, and skills.
#2 Invest in Worker Training and Development
👉 Is there a future in CNC? Yes, without a doubt!
Technology is always evolving and advancing.
In CNC machining, the pursuit for speed, power and precision is never ending. CNC machines of newer edition and higher technologies equipped with advanced features and functions to produce better parts, more productive, and which are extremely accurate are required by practically all industries globally.
To attract and retain younger engineers, it is important for companies in the CNC manufacturing industry to invest in equipping their workforce with the right skills while developing their careers.
Here are some of the specific strategies that CNC manufacturers can use to attract, train, develop, upgrade, and finally retain workers:
- Offer competitive wages and benefits: In a tight manpower market, companies need to dangle attractive salaries and job benefits to attract and retain talent. Promotional opportunities should be granted to staff able to juggle multiple roles and upskill themselves to take on more responsibilities.
- Provide on-the-job training: On-the-job training is one of the best ways to train workers new skills. It allows them to learn from experienced engineers and to apply what they are learning to their actual jobs.
- Send engineers to external training courses: External training courses can provide workers with the opportunity to learn new skills and to stay up to date on the latest technologies.
- Offer job rotation opportunities: Companies should offer their workers opportunities to advance their careers. This could include opportunities to move into management positions, to take on new challenges, or to transfer to different departments.
#3 Create Positive Work Environment
👉 What aspirations do the young engineers possess? Majority are eager to learn and explore new technologies.
The adoption of modern manufacturing such as Industry 4.0, AI, robotics, and smart factories enabling the exchange of product related information between designs, engineering and production verticals are examples of exciting technologies which can attract young engineers.
CNC manufacturers can create a positive and creative work environment by investing in modern CNC machines and systems. State-of-the-art CNC machines — integrated with multi-axis, automation systems, CNC software, and mobile applications — create interesting and appealing working environments for the young engineers.
For example, consider the Hwacheon “Harmony” – Smart Human Machine Interface with an All-In-One Solution. It is a modern, convenient, and easy to use Human-to-Machine interface that combines various CNC solutions on a single platform. You can view video to learn more about it here:
Another example is the Hwacheon M1-5AX. A high level modern and compact sized user friendly 5-Axis Machining Center which is capable of machining various most complex shapes and contours. It provides the possibility to be fitted with automation systems including CNC programmes for job preparation / scheduling, and machine monitoring / maintenance. Young engineers can achieve the satisfaction from turning a block of very expensive material into a complex part made to exact specifications.
👉 There are cases of entrepreneurial and promising young engineers establishing new CNC companies.
Support Technical Institutions
A good way to build a pipeline of engineering and technical talents for your company is to partner with technical institutions. These may include universities, polytechnics, and vocational institutes that offer engineering or technical courses.
#1 Apprenticeships and Industrial Attachments
Apprenticeship programmes like internships and industrial attachments are a great way to train and develop future skilled workers for the CNC manufacturing industry. They provide apprentices from the tertiary institutions with the opportunity to learn from experienced workers while gaining hands-on experience with the latest machinery and technologies.
By offering apprenticeships, companies can show young people that there are opportunities for them to learn and grow in the industry. They can also debunk the outdated notions that the industry is manual, dirty, and “uncool”.
#2 Trade Shows & Seminars
CNC manufacturers and technical institutions can collaborate to arrange tours for graduates, allowing them to visit trade booths and facilities. These visits present excellent opportunities to showcase the diverse and real manufacturing processes.
Conducting seminars focused on CNC manufacturing is an additional approach to raise awareness among graduates. These seminars may encompass career discussions and consultations, facilitating direct engagement with and outreach to the graduate audience.
#3 Support Skill Competitions like WorldSkills
WorldSkills is a yearly international event that showcases the skills of young people in a variety of trades and professions. Hwacheon has been supporting WorldSkills since 2005 in South Korea, with CNC machines, training and technical services for the participants. View video:
The importance of these national (and international) skills competition is manifold:
First, it provides young people with an opportunity to showcase their skills while learning from the best engineering professionals in the world.
Second, it helps to raise awareness of the importance of vocational training, and promote the benefits of having a skilled workforce.
Third, it encourages young people to pursue careers in the skilled trades by showing them the latest technologies and equipment available.
Fourth, winners of the top medals in these competitions will have future career opportunities in leading engineering-focused firms.
Such technical skills-based competitions are a win-win not only for winners, but the sector in general.
Tap Digital Channels to Reach Young Engineers
Finally, consider tapping on the power of digital media to build a positive brand for your company and to reach young engineers.
Social media channels like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram can be powerful ways to reach young potential engineers. Companies can use social media to share information about their products and services, to promote their job openings, and to connect with young engineers on a personal level.
Companies can write blog posts about CNC machining and manufacturing topics. These blog posts can be used to educate and inform young engineers about the current and advancing technologies and the many career opportunities available.
The manufacturing sector, powered by infinite technologies and transformation, is experiencing a new level of growth. However, this growth can be daunted by the worker shortages. Manufacturers have the urgent task to attract and train the younger generation to fill the shortfall.
Retiring workers who have been around longest have the most knowledge, experience and skills are in the retiring phase, while fewer young people choose to join the CNC manufacturing sector. The skill gap could result in many critical skills being wasted.
Equally important to recognize are the young semi-skilled workers who have made significant contributions, possess substantial knowledge, and do not require starting from the basics. Given right aptitude and opportunities, they can be re-trained and upskilled to take on more responsible and challenging positions.
Embracing technological advancement and innovative approaches can captivate the interest of young engineering talent, inspiring them to pursue fulfilling careers in CNC manufacturing.
A company’s success is contingent on its people. Attracting the right talent is crucial — investing in modern and advanced manufacturing setups is an effective way to draw in the right individuals, which in turn will drive your business forward.