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7 Unexpected Workers That Manufacturers Can Hire to Kick the Labor Shortage

Michelle Ross

The skills gap in manufacturing is no one’s favorite subject. When there’s a projected shortage of 2 million manufacturing employees by 2025 and the average U.S. manufacturer could lose up to 11% of its annual earnings, the labor shortage can be downright terrifying. 

What if we told you there are thousands of workers looking for the kind of jobs you offer? They want work that’s not only reliable but offers a career path, exactly what manufacturing provides. Where can you find all these great workers? 

Here are 7 unexpected types of workers you can hire:


1. Gig workers & part-timers

By tapping into the gig economy, you can hire an independent worker to complete a specialized task or project. This can be a long-term strategy of rotating gig workers or a short-term fix to increase your manpower while you’re looking for the right full-time employee. The trade publication Canadian Metalworking offers up one big tip when it comes to hiring gig workers: “manufacturers should focus on a worker’s skill set and ability to mesh with a team rather than the amount of time they will stay with the company.”

What about part-timers? There’s a misconception that part-timers are flaky or lazy workers. Many are simply second job seekers, creatives with an artistic career, travelers looking for temp work as they trot the globe, single parents, caregivers, retirees and students. Check out The Small Business Chronicle’s Advantages & Disadvantages of a Part-Time Employees to help you hire part-timers wisely.


2. Retired, about to retire & returning workers

Retired workers look to come back to work due to boredom or financial reasons. About 25% of baby boomers don’t have enough money to last their retirement and ⅔ of retirees think working part-time would give them a renewed sense of purpose.

Workers nearing retirement age often don’t want to retire yet. AARP states that two in five older workers would like to participate in a Phased-Retirement Plan, and four in five workers think that this kind of plan will keep them working longer at their company. Consider creating a phased-retirement plan like Franklin International, a sealant and adhesive manufacturer, that keeps their employees on board longer (Monster).

Returning workers, usually mothers or caregivers, hope to find employment after years of not working due to raising a family or supporting a dependent like an older relative. Consider creating a Returnship Program to attract and train returning workers like Walmart’s program where they help people get back on their feet and working at Walmart.


3. Work-from-homers

When it comes to manufacturing, the idea of hiring employees that work from home was once laughable. Thanks to technology like Ario Connect, it’s now a solution. You only need enough workers on the floor to maintain machinery. When it comes to your experts who can repair equipment, mentor and guide inexperienced workers, and supervise day-to-day operations, they can work from home. 

With Ario Connect, experts use augmented reality symbols to guide onsite teammates during a video call when equipment needs to be fixed or greenhorns simply need guidance in a workflow. Manufacturers like Canon, an imaging equipment company, and BSH Group, a home appliance company, both use Ario to tighten up workflows and share knowledge between workers of all skill levels at their facilities.


4. Young workers who show potential

When you scroll through your job candidate list and cross out every applicant who doesn’t meet your exact requirements, you’re actually reinforcing the skills gap. By looking at potential and not experience, your labor pool becomes larger. When you invest in training and an engaging work atmosphere, you build up a long-term workforce and push down employee turnover rates. 

Mars, Inc., a large global manufacturer of pet and human food is “constantly seeking out humble and hungry individuals who are ready to roll up their sleeves” and offers internships and programs to recruit and train these young workers. Their efforts are working; they have an employee turnover rate of 5% annually compared to the manufacturing industry average of 20%

 

5. Veterans

Veterans of all ages are looking to reskill once they have left military service. Ajax Metal Forming Solutions, a progressive stamping, sheet metal fabrication, fiber optic laser cutting and servo forming manufacturer, hired close to 20 veterans in 5 years. They only had about 75 workers at that time. How did they pull this off? They attended veteran job fairs and created a state-approved apprenticeship program where vets work full-time and use military benefits to go to college part-time (SHRM). 

Curt Jasper, the human resources head at Ajax, told SHRM that, “Military veterans succeed at Ajax Metal Forming because of the excellent training and relevant experience they acquire on military duty.” A state-approved apprenticeship program will take time and effort, but attending job fairs is a simpler and easier solution in the meantime.


6. Long-term unemployed

At the close of 2019, 5.8 million workers were unemployed in the U.S and about 2.3 million of those workers are considered long-term unemployed. Since the Coronavirus Recession, over 44.2 million Americans have filed for unemployment, countless of whom will end up in the long-term unemployed bracket. This bad news can be your good news.

Deloitte in collaboration with the Rockefeller Foundation has compiled A Guide to Recruiting and Hiring the Long-Term Unemployed and found that long-termed unemployment is not a red flag for poor work ethic. They reported that “nearly 20,000 sales and service workers found that there was virtually no difference between the performance of those who had not held a job within the past five years and those who had. In fact, the study found that workers who had been unemployed for five years actually performed slightly better in terms of average transaction time and schedule adherence.”


7. Formerly incarcerated

Hiring formerly incarcerated employees helps your bottom line. When 6,000 people were released from prisons in the U.S. last year, looking to hire the formerly incarcerated is a no-brainer. In the SHRM’s Do’s and Don’ts of Hiring People with Criminal Histories, Pat Steel of Central Iowa Works says, “These individuals must develop strong problem-solving skills to figure out how to get along in prison. It’s also likely that they’ve gone through personal challenges that other employees may not have had; they’ve already demonstrated the ability to persevere and overcome adversity.”

Not only is it good ethics to hire ex-offenders, it’s good business. For each formerly incarcerated person you hire, you can receive up to $2,400 in tax breaks through the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. If you’re interested in hiring returning citizens, you can partner with interest groups like FelonHire or 70 Million Jobs.



To keep production lines moving, manufacturers must find a way to operate with leaner operations and creative recruitment practices. The biggest trick to exploring other labor pools is to have efficient onboarding practices and clearly defined workflows so training doesn't take forever. By placing data, information and training in real-world environments, employees can learn on the job. 

Ario helps manufacturers like you get employees up to speed faster and reduce downtime by offering two knowledge-sharing apps that increase your team’s productivity:

The Ario Platform lets you place digital resources in the real world using augmented reality which gives your team the knowledge and context they need to be their best. With Ario, you can speed up workflows and reduce human error with teams of different experience levels.

Ario Connect is a two-way video calling app enhanced with augmented reality that lets you share expertise remotely by placing guidance arrows and symbols in space in real-time. With Ario Connect, the experts already within your organization can help less experienced workers learn on the job.

When you have the right tools in place to quickly train your team, it’ll open up doors so you can confidently search for potential employees in new or different places.





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