The "Employability" Challenge: Is Work Ethic Really an Issue with Today's Young Professionals?

In our upcoming October issue of Pharmaceutical Manufacturing, we'll be taking a look at some of the critical workforce training issues that drug manufacturers are facing today. As part of my research, I spoke today with Steve Sawin, president of Operon Resource Management, a firm which helps drug and device manufacturers train and manage their workers, and in particular their contingent workforces. Steve and I discussed many of the challenges of hiring and keeping contingent or part-time workers (getting them up to speed as quickly as possible, documenting their skills and training, and so on). Almost as an afterthought, I asked him whether drug and device manufacturers were still having difficulty finding enough qualified factory workers (part- or full-time), despite the current high unemployment rates and the wealth of available labor around the U.S.

Yes, he said. But one of the main reasons for this difficulty is something I did not anticipate: a poor work ethic on the part of potential hires. "What we're hearing from many clients is that there are many candidates who simply lack a reasonably good attitude and work ethic," he said. "That's troubling to me, because these are qualities that are developed in a home environment." In other words, work ethic is not something that can be taught or trained. (Or can it? I'd be open to hearing your ideas.)

Sawin called my attention to a study that was recently conducted by New Hampshire's Merrimack Valley Workforce Investment Board, which polled manufacturers from various industries about their challenges in recruiting new workers. Below is a graphic that reveals that, while experience, language, etc. continue to be issues, "employability" and poor work ethic may be the biggest issues of all. 

Major Challenges in Attracting New Workers 

Each generation seems to say, "these kids today really don't get it." But as far as manufacturers' needs are concerned, is this now more true than ever?

--Paul Thomas

 

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