Stereotypes abound, but don’t let first impressions fool you.

You never know quite what you may run into when you go looking to hire new staff. Such was certainly the case for me at a local job fair hosted by a state-sponsored regional workforce development organization.

I received the invitation from the local Chamber of Commerce to have a table at this event. The cost was free and the hours were 9 a.m. through 1:30 p.m. Based on the description, I thought the chance was reasonable to find a couple hires to fill openings in our drilling and plating departments. While it has been years since I participated in a job fair, I was familiar with the format and the similarity to the proverbial "speed dating": quick conversation and move on!

Consistent with my expectations, on the specified day I show up bright and early at a community college, find the massive meeting room, locate my table among the 50 or so others in the room, and set it up with information about the company as well as the industry. All the tables were spoken for, and looking at the plethora of companies in attendance, I noted most were service providers. A good number, however, were manufacturing companies that produced everything from pianos to metal castings, with two of us, an EMS company and my circuit board fabrication company, representing "high technology."

Read more: Speed Dating on the Job Scene

They may be a hassle, but audits can provide valuable insights and ideas for your company.

During the fourth quarter of this year, it seems that everyone and their brother have scheduled audits at my company. Some are for certifications such as ISO 9001 and AS9100. Others are customer-driven, as the cloud of Covid has at least partially lifted and after a three-year hiatus customers are able to travel to meet their suppliers. I have always hated audits; however, I also have learned that they can be a powerful tool when incorporated into the business planning process.

First, a disclaimer: I truly hate audits, for three basic reasons.

First, those conducting the audit – especially certification audits – have no clue what you make, the manufacturing challenges faced in producing the product, or industry-specific acceptability standards related to the product that you must meet. These auditors just follow a flat checklist and try to jam the proverbial square peg (your facility) into a round hole (their certification program).

Read more: Auditing the Auditors

Relocating manufacturing to the West requires more than moving factories.

For much of the past decade, many have touted the reshoring of electronics and especially printed circuit boards and electronic assemblies. Many reasons have been cited as to why reshoring is now taking place, from supply chain difficulties to nationalism, to the marketing optics of where products are made.

Indeed, no matter where you are from, it is always a nice feeling to buy locally, and while supply chain issues have been a serious problem over the past few years thanks in large part to tariffs and Covid, these challenges have seemed to impact all parts of the world relatively similarly. Because – or despite – these desires and challenges, the rate of reshoring, as measured by employment expansion, has been escalating, with the estimated annual number of jobs created attributed to reshoring topping 350,000 in the US alone.

That said, the challenges in successfully reshoring are still significant and basing success purely on employment levels may be misleading. Looking at the challenges, there have always been four: capital, facilities, technology and people, with now the possible addition of a fifth, inflation, to contend with. And two on the list may end up putting a cap on reshoring, at least in certain industries.

Read more: The Challenges of Reshoring

An unchecked rise in automation could equal a decrease in quality of life.

They say that the more things change the more they stay the same. Sometimes, perhaps, but not all the time – especially when people are involved.

For ages, people have strived for a good lifestyle. In ancient times, simply surviving – literally – might have been the definition of a good lifestyle. Over time, the definition has pivoted, influenced by the times in which people were living. For over a hundred years, people took both the short- and long-term view when defining their lifestyle. Short term, the idea was to have a good job, one that paid as well as possible, provided upward potential for both compensation and responsibility while also offering a level of stability, so one did not have to worry every day, week or month "if" they would have that job.

Most in our industry entered it because they saw a potential for growth – personal growth, as well as growth for the organization with which they were working. Most also started in an entry-level position and through hard work, observation and learning, could either become an expert in the area or on the equipment/process they operate, or be promoted to managing process, people or both. And while living in this short-term lifestyle called a career, people also built a life that in the long term provided a comfortable and happy environment for themselves and their family. Some call this the American dream, but I view it as a global vision, one shared by citizens around the world.

Read more: Don't Forget the People

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