LIMA — There’s one skills gap that Baby Boomer automotive workers are noticing between them and their younger counterparts that can’t be measured by employment figures and North American Industry Classification System codes, and that’s a work ethic.
Many veteran employees and their supervisors say that when it comes to being responsible and committing to a job, Millennials come up short.
“Getting them to come to work is an issue,” said Shirley Goedde, 57, a recording secretary for United Auto Workers Local 1219 in Lima. “They’re better off hiring an older person who will fulfill those jobs better than a young person.”
Goedde thinks Millennials haven’t been raised right. “They’ve been given everything,” she said.
She remembered the first time she applied for a job at the Ford Engine Plant, where she’s worked for two years. It was 1978. She and her brother, now deceased, slept in their cars in the parking lot so that they could be one of the first to get an application.
Such zeal appears to be in shorter supply now. Unemployment was 3.7 percent in May 2016, a figure that puts the Greater Lima area at nearly full employment, according to the Allen County Economic Development Group in a 2016 workforce report.
“With such low unemployment, everyone who is good has a job,” said Darrin Lanasky, a manager at Grob Systems in Bluffton. “The people who are available usually have some reasons why they don’t have a job.”
By many accounts, so-called “soft skills” — described by automakers who were surveyed for a 2008 workforce report by the Center for Automotive Research as “respect for others, respect for property, work ethic, positive attitude, an appreciation of diversity and attendance” — have been lacking in Millennial job-seekers, and companies are asking schools for their help.
“Our advisory boards are telling us they want to see someone who shows up on time, someone who will pass a drug test, and they want them to have the skill set that’s required in the industry,” said Andy O’Neal, dean of University of Northwestern Ohio’s College of Applied Technologies, a local leader in automotive technologies training.
He said the school tries to instill responsibility by having a strict attendance policy. If students miss one day of class, their grade is docked 5 percentage points. Four days out, and they fail the six-week course.
“Skills can be taught; traits are more important,” Vanamatic operations manager Adam Wiltsie wrote in an email when asked about the skills he most wants out of new employees. “Show up, learn, perform, work well with others. Those, combined with a positive attitude, makes for a great teammate.”
Team skills were also mentioned by Jeff Oravitz, president of the coatings company MetoKote in Lima.
“Basic math skills and teamwork skills, being able to function in a team-centric environment: those are things where we have the biggest challenges” when evaluating applicants, he said.
Reach Amy Eddings at 567-242-0379 or Twitter, @lima_eddings.