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90 SMT Magazine • October 2016 by Tony Bellitto FIRSTRONIC LLC As with many EMS providers, Firstronic's team of people is its biggest competitive advan- tage. The challenge the company has faced is developing an effective way to recruit and re- tain high-quality team members in labor mar- kets where experienced manufacturing talent is in short supply. A whole new generation of workforce is now entering manufacturing, and they're not the same as the past generation, and that generation is different than the one before it. This is a fact, and the sooner companies re- alize this, the sooner they start to become at- tractive to this new generation and retain those critical assets. This article looks at the compa- ny's systems for evaluating, onboarding and re- taining a high quality workforce in its Grand Rapids, Michigan and Juarez, Mexico facilities. The labor market dynamics associated with the two facilities are different. After more than a decade of focus on the service economy, the supply of experienced electronics assembly workers in Grand Rapids is limited. Conversely, Juarez has an experienced labor pool, but there is a high demand for experienced electronics assembly workers due to the large number of manufacturing facilities located there. In both cases, the company's rapid growth has driven the need to attract, train and retain large num- bers of employees. For example, the Grand Rapids facility nearly doubled its workforce in 2014, adding 110 workers. Most were entry-level workers. A $300,000 grant from The Right Place Inc., in collaboration with The Michigan Economic De- velopment Corp. (MEDC), the City of Grand Rapids, and a $289,550 Skilled Trades Training Funds grant from the Michigan's Workforce De- velopment Agency, was used to offset the costs of the training required to hire the additional workers. The Juarez facility was a greenfield opera- tion established in the third quarter of 2014. While a shelter provider with a robust labor re- cruitment process was utilized for a fast start- up, internal HR practices play a large role in minimizing turnover and encouraging word-of- mouth within the skilled labor pool about the quality of work environment and available po- sitions. When the facility was opened in 2014 Recruiting and Maintaining a High-Quality Manufacturing Workforce ARTICLE

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