Manufacturing Odds & Ends

Engineers top list of ‘Hardest Jobs to Fill’
Engineers, machinists and skilled trade workers are among the nation’s most challenging positions to fill, according to a new survey of employers by Milwaukee-based Manpower Inc. "From our research it is clear that across the country employers are experiencing a mismatch between the talent their businesses need and the skills and abilities potential employees possess," said Jonas Prising, president of Manpower North America.

The "10 Hardest Jobs to Fill," as reported by U.S. employers for 2008, are:

  • 1. Engineers
  • 2. Machinists/Machine Operators
  • 3. Skilled Trades
  • 4. Technicians
  • 5. Sales Representatives
  • 6. Accounting & Finance Staff
  • 7. Mechanics
  • 8. Laborers
  • 9. IT Staff
  • 10. Production Operators

For the third consecutive year, sales representatives, technicians, accountants/finance staff and machinists remain on the Hardest to Fill list, confirming that job seekers with specific skill sets are still in demand. Second on the list in 2006, engineers found themselves in the No. 1 position this year, after dropping off completely in 2007. Employers also are finding it difficult to fill openings for skilled trades people, IT staff and production operators, all new to the 2008 list. To succeed in the contemporary world of work, employers must not only encourage current employees to re-skill and up-skill to ensure they meet workload demands, but also refine their recruitment and retention strategies for a new generation of workers, Manpower said.

"While job categories have shifted on the list, it is clear all companies must have a plan for transitioning from baby boomers to younger generations," said Melanie Holmes, vice president of World of Work Solutions for Manpower North America. "It is essential for companies to find a balance where they are attracting and retaining aging workers while still developing innovative recruiting programs targeting young professionals, especially those interested in technical and trade careers."

Current trends in hiring also point toward employers focusing on more than simply finding an individual who has the role-specific competencies required to fill an opening. "Companies want employees who have the soft skills, work ethic and culture traits that fit their company," Holmes said. "Hiring managers recognize the high cost of hiring the wrong individual for their organization so they are taking more time to find the right fit, even for these hard to fill positions."

New web tool connects Wisconsin businesses to federal contracts
A new web-based tool is available for Wisconsin companies to identify specific opportunities for doing business with the federal government. The web site,, is part of the continuing work of the Wisconsin Procurement Institute to return more federal dollars to the state via business contracts. "This new system will open doors to revenue for Wisconsin businesses," said John Rogers, chairman of the Milwaukee-based Wisconsin Procurement Institute (WPI).

The web site complements individual activity, events and seminars of WPI to connect Wisconsin companies to federal contracts. "We spent more than a year developing it, applying cutting-edge technology to an easy-to-use interface," he said. "Unlike other sites that have generic matching processes, B2Gconnect presents registered users with opportunities that much more exactly match their lines of business. The result is a highly effective process that, we are confident, will lead to new federal business for Wisconsin companies. There is no other procurement site as robust." B2Gconnect employs knowledge software developed in Wisconsin to provide users with refined opportunities for federal contracts.

WPI executive director Aina Vilumsons said the site was funded by a U.S. Small Business Administration grant and represents the federal government’s ongoing effort to make it easier for private business of all sizes to gain access to government contracts. initially will focus on Wisconsin businesses but will later be extended for use by businesses in other states. "This is an exclusive opportunity for Wisconsin companies," Vilumsons said. "You often read stories about Wisconsin not getting its fair share of federal dollars, but that is changing, because companies here are taking advantage of these kind of opportunities."

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