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What are Trades & Manufacturing Employers Looking for?

Nov 3, 2020
Manufactoring Employee Getty1140837585

So you’re interested in a career in trades and manufacturing…but how do you land a job? When you consider all the postings on the Trades Hub job board, how do you get selected over others applying for the same position? We don’t have all the answers, but we do have some insights from a survey we recently conducted among trades and manufacturing employers. We asked over 150 companies what they’re looking for in new employees. Here’s what they told us.

What characteristics are most important when considering a job applicant (we asked them to select their top two out of eight choices)?

  • Strong work ethic was the top answer, noted nearly 70% of the time. This is not surprising given the nature of the work involved. It requires a commitment, both physically and intellectually. There are problems to solve, things to be build, systems to be fixed. Make sure your resume demonstrates your work ethic, and also make sure that you exhibit a strong work ethic in an interview if that is part of the application process. (Most importantly, be sure to build this characteristic if it’s not already a key part of who you are!)
  • Dependability was the second most popular answer, at 46%. This is also not surprising given that machines need to be operated and shifts need to be started, all on a set schedule. It is very important that employees show up when they’re supposed to, and continue to do so as they build tenure with the company.
  • Team player was the final characteristic noted at the top of the list, appearing 33% of the time. With few exceptions, the work you perform in a trades and manufacturing career is done as part of a team, whether it’s on a work crew or as part of a production process. Having an ability to: get along with and respect a wide range of people; look to others for advice and also provide leadership at times; and overall just function well on a team are essential characteristics according to employers.
Technical skills are important in trades and manufacturing! Be sure to develop a competence to get you in the door, and then build on it once you’re there.

The second important question we asked this group of employers was to list the most important knowledge, skills, and abilities for their employees. Their responses included:

  • Critical thinking was #1 at 43%. This makes a good deal of sense given the problem-solving nature of most trades and manufacturing careers. Often something simply does not work and it needs to be fixed. Having the ability to think through the various reasons why it might not be working and then develop a solution involves using a healthy amount of critical thinking.
  • The second most important skill was good communication (40%). This is aligned with the team-player characteristic noted above. Working on a crew or a production team without the ability to communicate clearly and effectively can lead to serious problems for both the team and the thing you’re working on.
  • The ability to be cross-trained is the third most important skill according to employers (33% noted this). Companies are looking for employees who are capable of building on their starting skill set and advancing through the organization by developing a range of skills. It is important to note that many companies will pay for their employees to pursue additional training at technical schools, colleges, or other training organizations as they develop these additional skills.
  • Finally, technical skills were cited 26% of the time as a desired skill or ability. This is hardly surprising since nearly every career in trades and manufacturing requires some degree of technical skill. What is surprising, however, is that our Gen Z survey participants who were asked this same question regarding most desirable skills ranked this as being important only 13% of the time. This is one-half the level of importance assigned by the employers. Technical skills are important in trades and manufacturing! Be sure to develop a competence to get you in the door, and then build on it once you’re there.
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