How A 137-Year Manufacturer Copes With The Growing Skills Gap
Now, companies simply cannot find enough people to fill their open positions. That’s especially true in sectors where workers need to have specific high-tech skill-sets, like IT or specialized manufacturing, where it can be especially difficult to find someone capable of doing the work.
Diamond Brand Gear, an outdoor gear manufacturer based in Fletcher, North Carolina, is one of those companies facing a skills gap challenge. The company has been stitching together hardy tents and packs for the U.S. military since 1881. In 1931, they also made the first backpack used by the Boy Scouts. More recently, the company—which split from its retail-centric business, Diamond Brand Outdoors, in 2015—has reintroduced throwback style backpacks and private-label bags aimed at consumers.
Unlike other factories that rely on automation and robots, or who make their products overseas, Diamond Brand Gear’s 70 employees assemble their products by hand inside a 70,000-square-foot factory using high-speed industrial-grade sewing and cutting equipment.
But as the company looks to expand its product line, it faces difficulties in finding people with an exceedingly rare skill: the ability to sew.
“It’s become increasingly hard to find folks who can bring those skills to us from day one,” says John Delaloye, the company’s CEO and part-owner, who originally joined the business in 2005. “So we look for people we can teach those skills to instead.”