Small Towns, Big Opportunities

I grew up in Elk County, PA – a county of just over 31,000 residents. As of April 2018, 45% of the county’s workforce is in the manufacturing industry. Statewide, it's 10%. 

Powdered metal built the county, and nearly everyone either works in manufacturing or has a direct relative that does. When I was a kid, news of layoffs at a local plant made more noise than any local, state or political issues.

As a new generation of children came of age in this town, we watched our parents work in these roles. Over time a negative stigma developed surrounding manufacturing jobs – dirty, dead end, physical, repetitive, boring were just some of the words we used. We graduated from high school. We decided to pursue other professional endeavors. We moved away more often than we stayed. This isn’t a unique story - small and rural communities are experiencing brain drain at unprecedented rates, and for too many communities, the damage is irreversible because their sons and daughters never look back. 

Between my junior and senior year of college, I was fortunate to have an internship at a manufacturing company that created construction access equipment in a small town in Ohio. It reminded me of my hometown. During this time, I talked to everyone at the plant – welders, assemblers, material handlers, managers. This opportunity painted a picture of the workforce that I’d never experienced: individuals who were passionate about the work they were doing, believed in the products they were making, and were active contributors to their small community. It made me question all of my preconceived notions about an industry I had been raised in but was only beginning to understand.

Compared to many alternatives in small communities, manufacturing jobs have a lot of upsides: they pay well, especially considering  the experience and education requirements, have clear bonus and benefit structures, and provide ample opportunity to stay physically active and utilize problem solving skills. 

We’ve all heard the horror stories about automation and manufacturing. It’s true that technology and AI are changing the manufacturing landscape. But as we dug into this problem, we found roles aren’t being removed as often as they are transformed. And employers can’t fill roles quickly enough to meet demand. We have met with multiple business owners who express complete disbelief that their biggest bottleneck is human capital. We’ve it heard time and again.

We think we can close that gap.

The manufacturing industry has a tremendous opportunity to upskill and redeploy people already working on the factory floor to other, current vacant roles, leveraging existing knowledge gained on the job as a foundation, and building upon that foundation to allow the employee to grow with the business.

We founded LineShift because we believe in our small towns. We know how integral these companies are to their future. More importantly, we believe in the potential of the people who call them home. 

Bill Yost, Co-Founder and CTO