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Talent Talk: Plastics Industry Preparing to Hire, but Finds Shallow Labor Pool

Image: Zobaair/Adobe Stock now hiring arrow
A lot of companies are optimistic about 2021 and have already drafted a comprehensive staffing plan.

It was seven months ago when Talent Talk first discussed the open window for hiring. I predicted that the available candidate pool would look like the toilet paper aisle in your local grocery store. That seems like a long time ago, when scoring a four-roll pack was cause for posting to social media.

I must admit I like being right — and enjoy pointing it out when I am — but I was wrong at that time. I predicted that hiring would be through the roof by the end of the summer. However, based on what I have seen over the past two to three weeks, I now believe I was right, but about one quarter early (which is a much more clever way of admitting I was wrong).

I make it a point not to talk specifically about my company here for obvious reasons, but we are on the tip of the spear when it comes to hiring in the plastics industry. We have not seen such explosive demand for hiring in a dozen years. It is across the board, from medical to automotive markets, in machinery, compounding, and processors of all types. They are sales positions, R&D, manufacturing, supply chain, and engineering.

Here is what we predicted seven months ago, that could drive a hiring crisis in plastics:

  • Demand for many plastic products will increase, as our lifestyles change and the country re-thinks things like single-use plastics bans.
  • There will be increased labor demand due to reshoring.
  • Pent-up demand will come from what might seem like unlikely sources, including the automotive and durable goods industries.
  • There is a lot of talk about more stimulus targeting infrastructure, which could be a wild card in job creation for some plastics companies.
  • We entered the pandemic with 3.5% unemployment overall, and very little has changed fundamentally.

With the benefit of hindsight, outside of infrastructure stimulus, everything else is happening right now. We are also hearing that a lot of companies are expecting 2021 to be not just a rebound, but their best year ever. If you do not have a comprehensive staffing plan for next year, now would be a good time to start drafting one.

About the author

Paul Sturgeon is CEO of KLA Industries, a national search firm specializing in plastics, packaging, and polymer technology. If you have a topic you would like to see discussed, a company that is growing, or other ideas for this blog, e-mail Sturgeon at paul@klaindustries.com.

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