VMA Human Resources Workshop Focuses on the Next Generation of Workers

At VMA’s first-ever Human Resources Workshop: Promoting Valve Careers to the Next Generation, member HR professionals gathered in Arlington, VA, Nov. 9-10, to hear from recruiting experts on how to attract and develop manufacturing talent, build a strong workforce, employ essential mobile and social media tools, expand college presence, and employ best practices in recruiting. In addition, a panel of VMA’s own Young Valve Professionals (YVPs) gathered to share their experiences as part of the valve manufacturing workforce and offer insight on what it takes to appeal to the younger generation.

Tracy and GregGreg Johnson and Tracy Fairchild present an overview of the Valve Careers Initiative.VMA Committee Chair Tracy Fairchild, director of marketing & communications, Velan Valve Corporation, and Vice Chair Greg Johnson, president, United Valve, opened the workshop with an overview of the Valve Careers initiative and the goals that the program hopes to achieve: informing and educating young people about career opportunities in valve manufacturing, and connecting VMA members with these talented young jobseekers. As Fairchild and Johnson overviewed the program’s next steps, they advised members of the workshop audience to spread the word about the Valve Careers program to their own companies’ workforce, to build relationships with local schools and colleges, and to engage other VMA members in the initiative by sharing recruiting success stories.

Manufacturing Misperceptions

Jennifer McNellyJennifer McNellyJennifer McNelly, executive director of The Manufacturing Institute, followed with a keynote presentation on manufacturing and its need for developing new talent, titled “Building the Manufacturing Talent Pipeline.” McNelly said that while “90% of Americans believe that manufacturing in very important to economic prosperity,” there is still a vast misperception of the industry, especially from Generation Y (people aged 19-33), who ranked manufacturing dead last in a survey of seven industries they would consider a worthwhile career path. While the future of manufacturing hiring is looking bleak, McNelly suggested three steps to close the gap: (1) change the perception of careers in manufacturing; (2) re-establish the U.S. as the global leader of manufacturing education; and (3) advocate for education and job training policies that strengthen the U.S. manufacturing workforce. By improving the image, quality and policy of manufacturing, the future of the industry can be improved by attracting skilled young workers. “Today’s manufacturing is not your grandfather’s manufacturing,” McNelly noted, advising the attendees to convey this concept to potential job applicants via the proposed tactics covered in her presentation.

Develop a Long-Term Strategy

When it comes to developing a strong recruiting and hiring future for any company, Joe Dutka, a business and education consultant, advises members to be proactive in looking for and creating long-term relationships with local schools and colleges in his presentation on “Building the Workforce You Need: A Long-Term Strategy.” Dutka, who served as vice chancellor for Ivy Tech Community College System in Indiana, spoke to the group about creating local academic partnerships to facilitate programs such as dual-credit programs, career services involvement, career nights, internships and externships, and even suggested serving on advisory boards. Dutka stressed that “communication is a contact sport, so do it early, do it often, and do it with effort.” Building strong academic partnerships will open lines of communication between companies urgently seeking talented young people and schools desperately seeking job placements for their graduating students.

Beyond ‘Post and Pray’

Tiffany GearhartTiffany GearhartTo delve deeper into recruiting tactics, Tiffany Gearhart, a national trainer and recruiting specialist with AIRS (an ADP company), gave two presentations to the group, the first covering “Creative Strategies to Expand Your College Recruiting Presence.” Gearhart provided an overview of college recruiting in today’s marketplace, noting that today’s college recruiters have smaller recruiting budgets and less time to travel, but they also have the ability to engage like never before. Gearhart provided workshop attendees with several low-cost advertising tools, resources to find the best matched colleges and universities, tips on using keywords for online college recruiting searches, and where to find online networks for college students. The presentation wrapped up with an overview of the top technology and social media platforms on which to engage college students.

Gearhart opened the workshop’s second day of sessions with her presentation on “Mobile & Social Media Essentials for a Cutting-Edge Recruitment Strategy.” She asked the group: “Who here uses the old ‘post and pray’ method?” garnering a few shyly raised hands. She then promised to provide better and more successful recruitment strategies and continued by providing in-depth information on mobile sourcing and social media resources. Among the staggering statistics about today’s job-seekers—“72% of job seekers want to receive career opportunity information on their smartphone,” while “less than 20% of top global companies are mobile ready for jobseekers.” To further put into perspective how vital mobile communication is these days, Gearhart noted that world-wide, more people have access to mobile phones (approximately 6 million people) than working toilets (approximately 4.5 million people)! Gearhart then took the workshop attendees step-by-step through mobile and social media recruiting tactics for mobile sourcing, mobile job posting, mobile landing and career pages, the mobile application process, SMS texting, QR codes and videos. A discussion on the best ways to utilize social media for recruiting on a variety of social media platforms wrapped up Gearhart’s presentation.

Benchmark Best Practices

Elizabeth McAndrew BenavidesElizabeth McAndrew-Benavides informs attendees about best practices in recruitingIn the last of the program’s formal presentations, Elizabeth McAndrew-Benavides, senior manager for Strategic Workforce Initiatives at the Nuclear Energy Institute, discussed “Best Practices in Recruiting for a Technical Industry.” She covered six tactics to benchmark best practices for recruiting in technical industries based on her experience in the nuclear arena. Her tactics included building and aligning a competency model, understanding your audience, developing pipelines, educating others about your careers, engaging and inspiring young professionals already working in the industry, and planning for the long term.

McAndrew-Benavides continued by showing examples of images typically used to represent the valve industry, emphasizing the importance of strategic marketing to a target audience, in this case, young people who want to see cutting-edge, clean and exciting peeks into the valve manufacturing industry when perusing for jobs. In another tactic discussion, she noted that “people are developed, they don’t appear,” advising attendees to develop thorough pipelines for sourcing the best talent for the industry. McAndrew-Benavides provided the workshop participants with an appendix of information, graphics and data that the HR professionals can use to create similar models in their company.

Cheryl Neiheisel, vice president of Human Resources at Richards Industries, a VMA member company, took to the podium to share what her company has done to successfully recruit, hire and retain young workers. She provided an overview of how Richards Industries hires new workers, and the training and development opportunities they provide to their young employees to ensure they are being kept up to date with the latest technology and best practices in their field.

YVPs: Pride in their Careers

As the workshop neared conclusion, five Young Valve Professionals participated in a panel in which they answered questions from the group about their experiences getting into the valve manufacturing industry. The Young Valve Professionals—or YVPs—are employees of VMA member companies under 30 years old, who are acting as ambassadors for the Valve Careers Initiative. Their stories and images are being used on Valve Careers social media and website to help promote the industry to other young jobseekers.

Interviewed by Jessica BelloYVPs attending the workshop were interviewed by Jessica Bello. Clips from the interviews will be used to create a video to help promote the Valve Careers InitiativeDuring the panel, the YVPs answered questions such as: “How did you find out about the industry?” “What is the favorite part of your job?” and “What would you recommend valve companies do to attract young people like yourselves?” The young professionals responded thoughtfully and spoke about their experiences in detail, sharing with workshop attendees the passion and excitement for their careers. “Travel,” said a field service technician for one of VMA’s member companies, when asked about his favorite part of the job: “At age 24, I’ve been to countries all over the world and have had the opportunity to experience so many different cultures.” Another YVP noted that “valves are vital to our everyday lives,” and went on to describe how working in the industry gives him a sense of accomplishment and importance.

The YVPs’ enthusiasm was infectious and left the group with a sense of pride in their work and hope for the future of the valve manufacturing industry. To show appreciation for the YVPs service to the Valve Careers program, VMA presented each YVP with a certificate of recognition to thank them for serving as ambassadors to the industry.

The VMA HR Workshop provided attendees with numerous tools and resources the group can use to enhance their recruiting efforts. Plans are underway for another event in 2016.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. is career coordinator for the Valve Manufacturers Association. She suggests readers visit ValveCareers.com and follow Valve Careers social media on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.