Workforce development is a vital topic in today’s additive manufacturing industry – as in every industry around the globe. With burgeoning technologies from automation to artificial intelligence coming into play in the manufacturing workflow, there’s already a lot for personnel to keep up with. Add in the impact of unprecedented market conditions from pandemic to supply chain disruption to layoffs to social reckoning, and late 2022 sees us on the precipice of a major reshaping of the workforce.
It’s high time to examine approaches to workforce development at scale – and how to build a foundation of diversity to build stronger.
The 3D Printing Workforce
One of the first questions to come up in a panel on Workforce Development at Scale from the 2022 AM Industry Summit is a vital one:
“Who is the workforce? What do they look like? When you look at workforce, who do you include?”
As the panelists highlighted, the question of who must be based in the what. For Lisa Block, CRO at Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies, necessary skillsets are many: “I need a mixture of the traditional manufacturer with the millennial with the fresh eyes and fresh outlook to make hybrid work seamlessly.”
As additive takes its place alongside traditional manufacturing, that more hybrid approach can impact many more businesses than those that already have “Hybrid” in their name. Building up a workforce with skills rooted in both legacy and bleeding edge ways of making is a tall order.
As Block highlighted throughout that panel, both visible and invisible aspects of diversity have an effect on the makeup of our workforce. When someone says “diversity” often the instinctual response is to think only of gender or ethnicity – some of the most visible factors.
Indeed, these factors are a major part of diversity. Organizations like Women in 3D Printing (Wi3DP) foster community-driven efforts to diversify the broader industry. Wi3DP’s 2022 Diversity for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) report, for instance, highlights the disparity in terms of gender makeup across 3D printing. Estimates of 13% female to 87% male gender distribution (when measured on a binary) indicate that this industry has quite a ways to go to establish gender parity.
Such stark measurements of visible – and quantifiable – diversity highlight a simple fact that has become foundational for Wi3DP in particular: the 3D printing industry does not currently reflect the larger world in which it operates. This includes considerations of many other facets of diversity, visible and invisible, chosen and inherent, that comprise individual identity.
Specific to the workforce, we also need to consider the ways in which different roles work together. Technical and non-technical roles, for example, both serve vital functions within an organization. Business leaders and materials scientists, receptionists and salespeople, marketing teams and applications engineers: given the scope of additive manufacturing, it’s clear that each of these broad job descriptions is a necessary ingredient for success.
Building the Workforce
We’ve been examining the importance of growing the additive manufacturing workforce from several angles; this particular dive is human-centered.
What does a people-centric workforce lens show us? Optimally – as statistics from McKinsey and many other organizations highlight time and time again – diversity will be a key driver of approaches to personnel in order to achieve the best performance.
Diversity and Inclusion
Companies are quantitatively more successful with a more diverse makeup. When, for example, all leaders of a startup graduated from the same institution, they have literally been trained to think in the same way. The same approaches to problem-solving will yield the same types of results. And, well, we know what Einstein said about trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different outcomes.
Imagine instead, then, a room with people from different educational backgrounds. Each has been trained in different approaches, on top of their individual inclinations to problem-solving. Coming at an issue from another direction may prove the missing piece of a puzzle that completes a larger picture.
Building the idea of inclusivity into that diversity of thought, team members will feel comfortable sharing their different opinions. More voices at the table means that the conversation can grow in new ways – and so can the company.
Recruitment and Hiring
Plenty of thought goes into team building. Recruitment strategies straddle the fine line between being a science and an art, after all; that’s the human part of Human Resources. Given the complexity of humans, especially considering the many aspects of diversity that can define us all, it’s vital to take into account the people of the talent pool.
Clearly stated diversity, equity, and inclusion statements are something that today’s job seekers are actively looking for on a job listing. Job posts with neutral and inclusive language (think “the successful candidate will…” instead of “he will…”) widen the potential applicant pool.
Training and Education
Skill shortages are nothing new in AM. Recruiters often point to more openings than applicants available as available talent who already hold much-needed skills remain in short supply. Opportunities for upskilling make 3D printing more accessible.
Formal education, apprenticeships, on-the-job upskilling, certifications, online training, and more can significantly help to develop the skills and knowledge of workers from diverse backgrounds and prepare them for success in the workforce.
Leadership and Representation
Two years ago, when Women in 3D Printing celebrated its sixth anniversary, Founder Nora Touré wrote a piece about not becoming an astronaut. The crux of that narrative lies in a simple quote: “You can’t be what you can’t see,” said Marie C. Wilson.
This holds for industry organizations just as it does for individual companies and for high-profile roles. Relatively simple steps – from company photos representing the whole team to About Us pages on the website where Leadership headshots show a more representative base – can create a meaningful visibility for in-house representation.
Support and Mentorship
Support directly on teams and throughout a business structure leads to an inclusive and intentional company culture. Mentorship programs, where more senior team members offer insights and personal experience to newer team members, can tighten communication and foster a more growth-oriented workplace.
Mentorship programs can also offer more meaningful routes for career progression. Internally this is evidenced through higher retention rates. At an industry level, mentor-based relationships open doors and strengthen networks.
Continuing the Conversation
More insights are available on expert-driven panels from ASME events including the AM Industry Summit’s conversation with Barbara Humpton, President and CEO of Siemens, Next Generation Engineering Workforce at Siemens.
These and other conversations are vital to raising awareness and sharing resources to strengthen our industry. Join Wi3DP next month as well for the third annual TIPE 3D Printing conference, where workforce will definitely be a topic of conversation, along with a career fair.
Metrix, an ASME Company, is proud to be a corporate member of Wi3DP and a Gold Sponsor for TIPE.