[M]Power Spotlight: Tom Ault of ERC offers advice on tapping into NEO talent pool
This is the third of the [M]Power Interview Series, highlighting the manufacturing leaders that will be featured at the [M]Power Manufacturing Assembly this Sept. 30 in Akron. A special thank you to Fathom Digital Marketing for their help!
Workforce development is a growing issue in the manufacturing industry and its effects could reach far beyond the present moment. In fact, in 10 years it’s expected that the manufacturing industry will be lacking 2 million necessary workers due to the retirement of about 3 million current workers.
While this may mean good news for those looking to get hired at a manufacturing company, it poses a host of dilemmas for the manufacturing companies themselves. Not only does the increase in retiring workers mean a discouraging loss of experience and embedded knowledge in the industry, there simply aren’t enough young people interested in manufacturing to take their place.
That’s where people like Tom Ault come in. As the Director of Technical Training and Sr. Training Consultant at ERC, Ault specializes in workforce development for manufacturers.
Presenting on “Quit Whining, Start Winning: 3 Must-Have Workforce Development Strategies for Your Business”, Ault shared some of his thoughts about the industry and the upcoming [M]Power event in an interview on September 17th, 2015.
VG: What excites you about speaking at MPOWER on Sept. 30th?
TA: It’s the opportunity to share information. When the entire region gets better we all benefit. We all benefit from having a more skilled workforce and from having better competition. I think it helps the growth of the entire region.
VG: What are you presenting on at MPOWER? What are you hoping attendees get out of your session?
TA: As creator and host of Northcoast 99, we get a lot of data. We find out what companies are doing, unique things they’re looking at, trends in the industry, benchmark data, etc. One of the things I’ll talk about is “here’s what organizations in Northeast Ohio are doing to attract and retain top talent & develop their workforce.”
The message is to help people understand what other organizations are doing. Some of that will be emphasizing training not just the front line but incorporating management into that.
VG: Can you tell me a little bit about your experience in the manufacturing industry?
TA: I spent most of my career with a manufacturing company in North Canton. I certainly interfaced with some of the different manufacturing departments and understood the importance of all components of an organization to work effectively & be successful. I spent a little bit of time on some of the floors doing training events and communicating with the management ranks.
With ERC, some of our clients are manufacturers so we provide a number of different support services, including training and consulting. I’ve been training mostly frontline supervisors, although there are some frontline individual contributors that attend some of our classes. A lot of what we cover is supervisory training, leadership development, lean 6 sigma training, and project management that touches on manufacturing.
VG: Can you tell me about ERC—who you are and what you do?
TA: We are a human resources and professional services organization. Essentially what we do is help organizations provide more effective workplaces so that top contributors will want to join and stay with companies. So, we support organizations in making workplaces more desirable. We also support human resource efforts, which we do through memberships. We have about 1,100 members in Northeast Ohio. We provide various service to members, including an HR help desk, which helps with regulation, disciplinary, and performance management questions. Another service we provide is salary and wage data for Northeast Ohio Companies and access to nationwide data.
Another service we provide is recognizing top performing organizations in Northeast Ohio. We are the creator and host of North Coast 99. That’s a big annual event where we pick the 99 top organizations in Northeast Ohio. A big component of that is how their own top performers rate their organizations.
VG: What is the number one piece of advice you can give to manufacturers looking to develop their workforce?
TA: What I hear pretty regularly when we train at the front level is the refrain “why aren’t my managers in this training?” The front line tends to agree with & accept most of what I’m talking about, but feel their managers may not have the same understanding.
The advice I offer is to provide consistency and alignment of messaging by training throughout the organization. This way, there’s more reinforcement to adapting and using the techniques and tools people are being trained on. We can provide all the training in the world, but if management doesn’t support it then it’s easy to let things slide.
We try to communicate that up through the organization. We like to bring managers or senior managers into training, whether it’s the exact same training, training designed for their level, or an executive overview.
VG: What predictions or insights do you have for the future of the Northeast Ohio manufacturing workforce?
TA: I think it’s a ripe environment. There’s so much potential out there for people to increase their capacity and growth. A lot of what holds people back is just finding the right people, finding good people. I hear that all the time. I think we see manufacturers trying to tap into that in a few different ways. They’re trying to become more efficient, so you see a drive toward efficiency training and development such as lean and 6 sigma.
They’re trying to do more with the same level of resources—increasing capacity by training their workforce. Organizations are recognizing they have to make their current workforces as good as they can be. It’s impossible to keep hiring or adding bodies if they’re not there. That also just might not be the most efficient option. Manufacturers want to equip their workers with the tools to continually take waste and inefficiency out of the operation.
That’s what needs to happen for manufacturing to really grow. It’s already happening and I see that trend continuing. It will bring growth to the area.
Want to learn more? Come see Tom Ault speak on talent development in his segment “Quit Whining, Start Winning: 3 Must-Have Workforce Development Strategies for Your Business” at [M]Power Manufacturers’ Assembly on September 30th. Register now.
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