Manufacturing hiring from the inside

A staffing company that works with smaller manufacturers in Wisconsin and Minnesota hired over 600 temporary, contract and direct placement workers for their clients last year – a potentially hopeful sign for the struggling economy.

Brigham Group Staffing saw a 90 percent increase in hiring over 2009 last year and expects at least another 10 percent increase this year.

jenniferbrigham.jpgThe kinds of companies that Brigham Group Staffing works with at its Bloomington and Baldwin, Wis. offices have anywhere from five to 500 employees and Jennifer Brigham, president and founder, is heartened by the capital investment she’s seeing. Several of her clients have added new assembly lines and the people needed to run them.

“After biding their time, things are moving again,” she said.

But the kinds of workers manufacturers are looking for are not a dime a dozen. Brigham said a lot has changed since she started her company 30 years ago.

It used to be that manufacturers wanted, “reliable workers with good, strong backs that could learn on the job,” she said. Now they’re looking for people with specific degrees from certain kinds of schools with a very specific skill set.

“Manufacturers feel they can’t take a chance on teaching people on the job,” Brigham said. “Employers are more picky.”

The kinds of skills businesses most often request are advanced tool and die work, prototyping, technical welding, and computer numerically controlled programming for manufacturing machines.

Brigham also receives many requests for machinist/engineer combinations or people with manufacturing engineering degrees.

“But sometimes electrical or mechanical engineers will work and having a background in computer programming is cool too,” she said.

Brigham said that it’s not easy to find the people with exact skill sets that her clients are looking for. Her company works with Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis to find the people they need before the students even finish school.

According to Brigham, most students in the two-year programs have already found a job early on in their second year of school.

“These jobs just didn’t exist 20, even 10 years ago,” Brigham said.

It’s in these new fields that Brigham sees growth – and opportunity for students.

Jennifer Brigham is a source in our Public Insight Network. What are you seeing at your work? Share your story with MinnEcon.

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