Baking & Snack - August 2016 - 21


Workforce Gap Study

Bridging the Gap
Industry launches a bold initiative to find solutions to an ever-decreasing workforce.
by Joanie Spencer
It might be hard to imagine a drawback to an improved
economy. Then again, anyone tasked with filling positions
when the pickins' are slim might tell a different story.
In an employees' market, a slew of manufacturing
job openings are going unfilled - and that comes as no
surprise to the American Bakers Association (ABA)'s
Human Resources Committee, who saw the writing on
the wall a number of years back. "We realized when we
were in the middle of the recession and there was an
open workforce that we were still having challenges attracting talent," said Robb MacKie, ABA president and
CEO. "The thinking was that when the economy turns
around, it's really going to be a problem."
For the baking industry, caught between an aging workforce and a lack of new prospects, there lies a gaping hole
- the workforce gap.
Members of the industry who live it every day recognized this gap and did something about it. To that end,
ABA's Human Resources Committee, in conjunction with
the American Society of Baking (ASB), commissioned
Cypress Research Associates to conduct a year-long comprehensive study to collect data from bakers, suppliers and
broad manufacturing about the challenges and solutions
for attracting, training and retaining skilled, hourly production workers.
"We didn't want another 'sad story' report that would
just sit on shelves," Mr. MacKie said. "This is something
we've been talking about for more than a decade, and we
needed to take the anecdotal to the empirical; we needed to
get to the results."
This is not a generational study. It's not about millenni-

als. This is about the ripple effect brought about by modern
technology that's changing the way skilled hourly employees view the work they do and their role in a company and
the world at large. In order to attract, train and retain talent, the baking industry must let go of its more traditional
ideologies; in short, opening minds to new workforce practices will in turn open the doors to a new crop of talent.
"This may be a challenge for some companies because it
will change their paradigm on how they operate," said Cory
Martin, director, government relations, ABA. "But there are
solutions out there - it will just take some willingness to
change in order to address these workforce needs."

Closing the workforce gap is
less about generations and
more about attracting the
right people and, through the
right mix of company culture,
employee engagement and
proper training, keeping them
in the baking industry.
Lou Jones

What's the problem?
During the year-long study, titled "The Workforce Gap in
US Commercial Baking: Trends, Challenges & Solutions,"
the research bore out what the task force had predicted:
While the most serious gap is among hourly skilled production positions, the biggest pain point currently lies
with maintenance and engineering positions. And it's an
area that Marjorie Hellmer, president of the research firm,
described as "simmering" - the shortages might not get
worse, but there's certainly no sign that they will get better
over the next 10 years.
Baking companies surveyed predicted that by 2025,
the significant shortage of hourly skilled maintenance/
engineering production staff will remain the same, and
that the skilled machine operators' gap is projected to
increase by 21%. It's a problem that, if it continues to go
unaddressed, will become a serious issue, as exemplified by
the current amount of turnover for these positions and the / August 2016 Baking & Snack 21

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