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Manufacturers Struggle to Find Workers with CNC Skills

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The economic slowdown has had a powerful impact on the manufacturing industry, but as the broader economic picture slowly recovers, it’s becoming clear that manufacturing firms still need to make constant strategic adjustments in order to stay competitive in a rapidly changing world.

Staffing presents one of the key challenges facing the industry. As the market returns to pre-recession levels, employers are having trouble finding applicants for skilled positions. The most in-demand skills sets are specifically related to rapid prototyping and CNC (computer numerical control) programming ability.

Why the CNC Shortage?

Even after a ten-year slowdown, four million manufacturing jobs removed from payrolls, and record high levels of unemployment, manufacturers still struggle with CNC staffing. There are several reasons for this, many of which are easy to identify but still difficult to resolve.

1. CNC (computer numerical control) machines allow a programmer to enter a series of numerical codes that dictate a machine’s tool path, and the mechanization of this process supports rapid production at a greatly reduced cost. With CNC machinery in place, error rates drop, efficiency rises, and accuracy improves. Waste is decreased and productivity soars. But this machinery requires extensive training.

2. Older workers and in-house employees aren’t typically trained for CNC programming, so employer options are limited to hiring from the outside or providing on-the-job training for current employees, which can cost time and resources.

3. CNC systems tend to require extensive knowledge of CAD (computer aided design) and CAM (computer aided manufacturing) software. Not all applicants possess these skills, and those who do can command high salaries. Skilled applicants may also live outside of the geographical area, which can mean a national candidate search and steep relocation costs.

CNC Programming Shortage: Possible Solutions

Manufacturing business owners can help resolve this industry-wide staffing challenge by supporting CNC training and education programs. The spread of Associates degree programs in numerical control technology can broaden the candidate pool. As these programs expand, job opportunities for prospective students increase, and employer salary costs are kept under control as more applicants flow onto the market. And of course, productivity increases as fewer skilled positions go unfilled.

Community colleges are now being encouraged to offer a wide range of CNC, CAD and CAM training programs with the support of state and federal grants. Manufacturing business owners are encouraging these efforts, and some are offering privately funded training programs and apprenticeships that allow new employees to gain CNC programming skills while on the job.

Are you a manufacturing industry employee trying to stay competitive by adding CNC skills to your resume? Are you an employer in search of talented CNC programmers? In either case, the talented Arkansas staffing and employment experts at CSS can help. Contact our Little Rock staffing office for information and guidance.

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