Part of the work I do in economic development involves interviewing manufacturing plant managers to see how their business is going and to gain insight from them on what the community can do to help them maximize their success.
One area of business that we ask about is workforce training and development. In speaking with Jim Fincher, Site Manager at 3M Decatur, he said that one of the things that he is excited about is their implementation of retired 3Mers becoming their go-to trainers. With the influx of new production operators and industrial maintenance staff, Jim said many of which didn’t grow up fixing things (they played video games instead) like the retiring generation did, these baby-boomer retirees are helping teach the new workforce the skills they need to be successful in a production environment where troubleshooting, problem solving and fixing things is a part of the job.
It’s also a win for the retirees, Jim said, because they get to earn a little extra money. More importantly, however, the retirees enjoy having the opportunity to teach and share with others not only the skills they possess, but also the wisdom that they have accrued over time.
Today there is so much talk about succession planning in business. How are we going to make sure we have the bench staff to replace the baby boomer workforce is a concern I hear frequently. But why can’t we think outside of the box like Jim at 3M has done? We don’t have to lose the talent and wisdom of individuals just because they reach their 60s. It doesn’t have to be a stay on full-time or retire choice. People don’t just reach retirement age and become useless to the workplace. We can offer flexible arrangements to give those at or after retirement age the opportunity to come off the full-time payroll while maintaining what we need from them the most- their experience and expertise.
The Manufacturing Institute’s Skills Gap Report points to other ways to close the skills gap. You can find these in the blue box on page 11.
What have you done to think outside the box to meet your training needs? What ROI have you seen as a result?