Fixing the Labor Gap: Connection is Key

January 2023

Leaders will need to rise above, offering mentorship that includes valuable interpersonal skills training, the ability to handle conflict, teamwork, listening, and more.

Fixing the labor gap is on everyone's mind right now. This issue provides a good opportunity for us to think outside the box in how we go about business and connecting with each other. I believe part of the answer will require us to bring more interpersonal skills, leadership, and compassion into our workforce and keep these qualities an integral part of how we do business.


Success Is More Than Working Hard

Following my college training, I worked hard steadily for many years with a focus in the quality and nondestructive examination industry. I eventually found myself at a premier steel fabricator located in Clackamas, Ore. This company taught me the value of hard work and gave me more than just an employment opportunity. I learned the value of teamwork, diversity, cooperation, accountability, and much more. They also realized the value of working with organizations outside of the business and supported my involvement. These experiences granted me access to continued learning and mentorship that helped me grow and advance in my career. Through company support, I was able to participate in a multitude of technical welding committees, including those at AWS, which I've been a member of for more than 20 years. Ultimately, my former employer's support impacted my decision to remain with the company for many years, and though I now work independently, I still maintain valuable relationships within the company and believe partnerships can bring a greater good to the whole.


Mentorship Matters More Than Ever

For years, fabrication and construction firms have struggled to find qualified and reliable workers. The pandemic coupled with the recent federal investment in infrastructure and manufacturing have exacerbated the problem. Mentorship and partnering can help put people and projects on the fast track. We can share knowledge and resources. If you have something to offer, be the one to offer help. And if there is something you need, have the courage to ask. You might be surprised with what you get.

Within this challenge to recruit and retain employees with the skills we need also lies an opportunity that bears more fruit than just filling vacant positions. Leaders will need to rise above, offering mentorship that includes valuable interpersonal skills training such as verbal and nonverbal communication, the ability to handle conflict, teamwork, empathy, listening, and maintaining a positive attitude. Interpersonal skills permeate all areas of life and are equally important in both personal and professional lives. I am technically minded by nature and have had to work hard to hone my interpersonal skills, but I have reaped the rewards. Even after years of leadership and life coach training, I continue to look for ways to improve my skills and bring compassion to the board room and the shop floor.


Our Call to Action

AWS was brought forth to advance the technical side of the industry, but as a workforce that stands on the shoulders of all the great people that built this country and industry, it is our responsibility to help the next generation sustain a high level of capability not just with improved codes and standards but also through recruitment, retention, mentorship, community building, and a vision for the future.


This article was written by Nate Lindell (CEO, Project + Quality Solutions) for the American Welding Society.