The manufacturing skills gap is felt by businesses across the plastics industry. What do you do when your business demands outrun your human resources? How do you replace talented, highly-skilled employees as they age out of the industry?

For one Minnesota manufacturing company, the answer lies in proactive outreach at the beginning of the employee pipeline.

Top of the Funnel Outreach

Mold Craft, an injection mold-making company specializing in micro molding, has spent the last five years working to solve the dearth of skilled manufacturing professionals with active outreach to local high schools.

At first, Mold Craft focused their efforts on bringing students into the Mold Craft facility for tours and presentations about the company and the potential available to them in the manufacturing career field.

“We were excited to open our doors so students, parents, career counselors and city officials could see how we [used] science, technology, engineering and math in our everyday work,” said Tim Bartz, Mold Craft’s president. While these tours were successful, it quickly became clear that more investment in the local manufacturing environment was necessary.

Four-Way Professional Partnership

The way forward wasn’t easy. Along with three other local manufacturing companies, Mold Craft received funding from United Way to introduce a paid manufacturing internship program called “Gen Z Connection.” But Minnesota manufacturing laws preclude youth under 18 from working with manufacturing machines. Completing advocacy to change the laws and ensure students could be covered by workers’ compensation took about two years.

The four companies (Mold Craft, Du Fresne Manufacturing, Schwing and SMC Manufacturing) spearheading the partnership worked together to schedule a week of in-depth, hands-on experience at each company’s facilities. The program trades on the idea that a rising tide lifts all boats; the variety offered by the partnership allows interns to see the breadth of options available in a manufacturing career.

The pay-off from the Gen Z Connection program has been worth it. Of the four students in the kick-off iteration of the program, two were offered internship continuation and/or post-graduation job offers within the first week and one is looking into manufacturing career options for his post-graduate education.

Looking to the Future

“It’s important for Mold Craft to have new, up-and-coming employees,” said Justin McPhee, vice president of engineering for Mold Craft. Along with the other members of the leadership team at Mold Craft, McPhee has chosen to dedicate resources toward recruitment as early as possible. The other Gen Z Connection companies have the same level of commitment to the program.

“We have 10,000 Baby Boomers a day retiring,” said Steve Moeller, SMC’s director of manufacturing. “We don’t have enough replacements.” Facing the problem head-on has already proved a viable way to solve it. McPhee has three simple tips for any company looking to create a similar partnership with local schools: be patient, team up with others in the industry and be willing to invest resources up front.

While creating internships requires time and effort, it’s the best way to help students see career paths in manufacturing. With industry, government and education teamwork, Mold Craft is doing their best to ensure that local students can become the next generation of highly-skilled manufacturing experts. Mold Craft looks forward to continuing the Gen Z Connection program with more students and increasing visibility for the modern manufacturing industry in the future.

Want to learn more? See images or watch a short video about the Gen Z Connection program here.