Q. We are a small, specialized, modern plating and machine shop located in the Southwest. One of our major problems is finding individuals who are qualified and experienced platers. Besides advertising, which does not seem to generate many leads, is there anything else we can do to find qualified people? M.O.
A. This month seems to be the month for discussing the finding of experienced electroplaters! I have received three different questions on this topic. As an individual who has spent many years involved with the training of electroplaters, I have an opportunity to get on my soapbox and talk about this issue.
As a result of my many years of being with the Kushner Electroplating School, I have a number of opinions as to what the problems are with finding qualified individuals. Where should we start? Many of the smaller plating shops that still exist in the U.S. are typically unwilling to spend any amount of money on training for their employees. Yes, there are larger plating shops that have their own training programs, many of which are very good, but smaller shops always seem to rely on hiring individuals from these larger shops. This is not necessarily bad and is part of the American way of doing business. But if your shop is not in a position to offer a better salary or more benefits, there is little reason for an individual to jump ship.
Another problem is that being an electroplater is not a particularly glamorous job. Younger people looking for a position would much rather become a computer guru or work in a clean industry. Classically, electroplating is not considered a clean industry. The image is such that when you mention the term electroplating people either do not know about it is or, if they do, think in terms of wonderful things like acids and cyanides.
Yet another problem is that the number of plating shops in the U.S. has diminished dramatically in the last 10 years as many of the plating companies have gone out of business and the actual work has gone offshore. The consequence of this is that there are fewer people working in the industry, and this means there are fewer people that you can go out and attempt to hire away to work in your shop.
What can you do about this? The same answer that I have been giving for the many years: You have to train your own people and then make the job attractive enough that they will not jump to a new company because of a small increase in salary. Where can you get training for your staff? There are a few organizations that offer training for electroplaters. The one I recommend is the Kushner Electroplating School (I am no longer affiliated with the school.), which you can find at platingschool.com. It offers on-site, correspondence and Internet-based training. Another choice is the National Association for Surface Finishing, nasf.org, which offers seminars, some correspondence training and specialized training programs.
The bottom line is that, for long-term success, you must invest some assets in training.