In 2017, a successful American heavy equipment manufacturer and seller had a challenge. They needed to hire 150 welders to fulfill their abundant work orders, but finding so many qualified workers in one region was proving difficult. After researching solutions to help this client, Aerotek recommended identifying promising job candidates and “upskilling” them in the welding proficiencies needed.
Upskilling — training and advancement practices that help workers learn new skills and take on new responsibilities — has gained increased interest from companies navigating today’s tight hiring market, and with good reason. A well-developed and consistent upskilling effort can mitigate three of the most crucial challenges facing employers; finding qualified workers, overcoming the skills gap and increasing retention.
Aerotek initiated the program by selecting candidates with a solid work history and a willingness to learn the skill set. Job candidates come from different work backgrounds, including warehouse, retail, restaurants, construction and landscaping. Once onboard, the workers entered a specialized program the manufacturer developed to fast-track their welding skills. The manufacturer provided a total of four experienced instructors for the program.
“The program is very comprehensive, involving safety training, classroom training where they learn the theory of welding, then approximately four weeks of hands-on welding,” explains Lauren Hickey, Aerotek on-premise manager. “Those that are able to pass the 2G weld test at the end of the classroom portion then advance to the shop floor where they are paired with a trainer. With this trainer they continue learning, with overhead cranes, blueprints and all other aspects of fabrication.”
During the four-week training, workers are paid $14.75 an hour, which advances to $18.27 once they’re on the floor. Since the program launched in June 2018, the company has successfully trained more than 100 new welders. The classes usually have a dozen or so members and are offered each month.
“This program allows the manufacturer to train the new welders in the specific processes and practices needed,” Hickey says. “So even though the workers are new to the skill set, there are also some advantages in learning the exact way the employer needs them to perform.”
In addition to being able to fill skilled positions within the company, the manufacturer has benefited from increased employee loyalty and retention among this group of employees, notes James Hall, Aerotek account executive.
For workers who demonstrate a good work ethic but don’t achieve the proficiency to qualify as 2G welders, the manufacturer often is able to find other available positions in areas such as assembly. Aerotek and the manufacturer work together to provide support and feedback as they transition into their new role.
“This allows the new employee to get up to speed quickly and benefits the client by filling additional positions without having to go through a new recruitment and hiring process,” says Hall.
The program has also helped the manufacturer meet an unrelated goal to increase the diversity of its workforce, notes Hall. The manufacturer’s human resources director is very invested in hiring workers of all backgrounds, including veterans, man, women and people of a broad range of ethnicities.
“Because one of the trainers is multilingual, Aerotek was able to hire many candidates who speak Spanish only, opening doors for other areas within our community where there has been a language barrier in the past,” he says, noting that Aerotek also employs multilingual recruiters.
Building on that success, the manufacturer and Aerotek have now funded an on-site program to provide English as a Second Language (ESL) classes to employees. The classes, which meet twice weekly for an hour and a half before work shifts begin, was launched with support from local government.
The manufacturer’s human resources department has expressed extreme satisfaction for the program, especially with the successes achieved in retention and diversity.
“Ultimately the partnership that we have with our client has produced a solution that has been beneficial for all parties, training 100+ welders in an in-demand, lifelong skill,” notes Hickey. For companies in any industry that hires hire niche skill sets in high volume, it’s worth it to explore the benefits of launching an upskilling program.Want to learn more about solving workforce challenges? Contact Aerotek now.