Home About MAC
The Next Generation Manufacturer Newsletter
Upcoming Programs Contact Us Send a Letter to the Editor

From the Desk of Jack Healy

Creating a Workplace that Attracts Employees

Jack Healy – The voice of manufacturing in Massachusetts
Jack Healy – A Voice for Manufacturing in Massachusetts

By Jack Healy, President and CEO, MassMEP
[email protected]

"People can’t get jobs because there are no jobs, because China has our jobs and Mexico has our jobs." – Donald Trump

Statements like the above from Mr. Trump have been angrily repeated often enough during this primary election season that they have become fixed in the minds of the public as accurate. Unfortunately, the candidates don’t seem to realize that the big issue facing manufacturers today is not more jobs but more qualified candidates to fill existing jobs.

Constant competitive demands have brought us to the point where the average person in Massachusetts manufacturing is producing 21.3% more in 2014 than they did in 2009. Today’s production employee accounts for an average of $550,000 in shipments per year1. That is a good reflection of the demand for increased skills. To maintain increased productivity and shipment levels requires an entry skills level which just a few years ago was referred to as middle skills.

A study of five underperforming manufacturing counties in Western and Southern Massachusetts performed by Research Triangle International (RTI) found that manufacturers consistently identified workforce as the most significant barrier to their company’s growth.

The following is a summary of open-ended responses made by manufacturers in this study to questions related to the challenges of growing and maintaining a manufacturing workforce. Of those who identified the workforce barrier as a 10 out of 10, their follow-up comments stressed the following themes:

  • Lack of qualified individuals seeking trade education is creating a growing divide between unskilled laborers and highly skilled engineers
  • Aging workforce and fewer younger, skilled tradespeople to replace retiring workers
  • Challenge of attracting young, skilled workers to rural Massachusetts towns
  • Wages that cannot compete with other jobs
  • Education priorities that orient students away from trades and toward service jobs

Others responded to the question by citing regulatory issues related to workforce, such as health care and competition with offshore wages. However, the most common theme across all responses was the challenge of finding young, skilled tradespeople and interacting with local educational institutions to encourage the kind of trade skills training needed to succeed in manufacturing jobs.

More specific workforce challenges for both hiring and worker performance within the company were addressed through additional survey questions and interviews. Figure 3-2 shows the most common responses to the question: Does the area workforce pose any specific challenges for hiring and/or worker performance at your company?


Detector Technology, Inc.
Small Manufacturing Enterprises (SME’s) throughout the state face these same challenges in a myriad of ways, primarily through leadership such as at Detector Technology, Inc. Detector Technology is a world-class manufacturer of scientific-based products and systems serving the healthcare, quality, scientific, medical, and research-based markets. They have a state of the art fabrication and production facility in Palmer, Mass. In the last three years, Detector Technology has grown 106% in revenue and 20% in employment.

The leadership team, led by President Jay Ray, has a philosophy of managing on their feet rather than their seat. The team is very active in the day-to-day operations of the company and is built for long term success. According to Ray, "It is important that our leadership team is involved in all levels of manufacturing; no task is too big or too small for us to undertake."

Step reduction is a term you will hear every day on the manufacturing floor and in the office. Everyone understands the importance of reducing steps throughout processes. Detector Technology’s customer base is global in nature. They have grown by delivering solutions that take away their customer’s pain. They solve problems for their customers with a dedicated team that designs, develops, and manufactures innovative solutions. The company philosophy, "Committed to Excellence," is not just a fancy slogan, but the way they choose to do business.

Detector Technology is currently working with MassMEP. MassMEP has worked with them to introduce their Leadership team to Toyota Kata, which trains people to develop systematic and scientific habits (Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata) for achieving challenging objectives and goals. The company has figured out that it’s important to make manufacturing enterprises more valuable to the individuals by providing a workplace that attracts and holds talented people with investments in training and education. Any manufacturer interested in creating such a workplace can contact Susan Janus, MassMEP, at 508-965-8768 or [email protected].

1. U.S. Census, Survey of Manufactures Economic Study 2009-2014


Have an Opinion?
Have an opinion to share? Send a Letter to the Editor.

We Would Like Your Feedback …