Human Resources and Recruiters in Additive Manufacturing – #AMneeds


Lee-Bath Nelson  

Mixee Me 3D Printed Figurines

In this installment of the #AMneeds series, we highlight recruiting needs of recruiters, companies, and candidates. I will concentrate on the specific needs in the additive manufacturing (AM) industry as much as possible but some needs are more general than that. By its nature, recruitment more has needs that can be addressed by process and people, rather by technology, but these needs, if fulfilled, can help everyone in the ecosystem so they are wide-reaching. AM is advanced enough that there are a few recruiters that specialize in AM and I spoke with 2 of them for this post: Nick Pearce, Director of Alexander Daniels Global, and Phillip Hodson, co-Founder & CEO of Kensington Additive, to get the recruiters’ point of view as well as anecdotes picked up from HR professionals and candidate at various gatherings and webinars. Let’s start with some numbers and go from there.

Mixee Labs 3D printed bobble heads

AM Talent in Numbers

A recent (November 23rd, 2020) check of LinkedIn (LI) by Alexander Daniels yielded some interesting numbers for the AM job market. About 260,000 people worldwide have “Additive Manufacturing” or “3D Printing” as part of their LI profile. Of those, approximately 70,000 were open to work opportunities (as recruiters see it, not necessarily publicly) compare with 36,000 in 2019. This means the number of people looking for work opportunities doubled compared with last year. This is not surprising given that the large AM employers, especially in the US were early and swift in cutting their workforce (more on the consequence of this later on) and Stratasys, for example, moved employees to 80% positions instead of full time. Some of the large US based AM users also cut positions – Honeywell, for example.

My quick check shows that at the moment the 70k people open to work on LI can see a little over 3,300 job listings globally that include “Additive Manufacturing” or “3D Printing” in them. This is an 8:1 ratio.  In Alexander Daniels’ annual salary survey in 2019 they reported a ratio of applicants to jobs of approximately 5:1. So is the current increase in ratio good news for employers? From talking with several people in the industry the answer is “not necessarily”. The available people and demand for people are not spread uniformly over the different disciplines. Some are much harder to recruit for than others. Software is the hardest according to both Hodson and Pearce. Other difficult areas are top technical talent (materials, mechanical, etc) and some sales positions. Pearce also thinks product management is hard to find, especially the double whammy of software product management, but on the other hand he sees no problem with marketing positions: “we don’t see a lot of demand on the marketing side in AM, I would argue it’s the least in demand profession in AM”.

Resoluut 3D printed juggler by 3Dwergen

Company Needs

According to most people I’ve spoken with companies need more industry benchmarks, on salary but also benefits and some less tangible aspects like employee development. One way to bridge this gap on specific jobs is to hire recruiters to benchmark a position even if the company thinks they found the right candidate – Hodson says that some companies Kensington works with will even do that when they hire or promote internally. Kensington will also benchmark jobs they are hired to head hunt on a retained basis (but not those on a contingent basis). Alexander Daniels publishes an annual AM recruiting report (the 2020 one is coming up soon) but naturally this is not very fine grained and highly reliant on their specific experience and publicly available data (e.g., from LI searches).

No matter what the candidate to job ratio, companies always compete for the top talent and their success is influenced by the company’s reputation in terms of how it treats its employees. Recently there have been challenges in maintaining this reputation. Hodson explains: “Companies need to be aware of how the talent perceives the company, what reputation does it have? … Some of the US companies have cut deep as soon as the pandemic began  – they showed how not to treat employees and those fired employees will not consider returning now.” He adds: “Embracing employees plays an important part [in company reputation] and [companies] are suffering for it now.” Another challenge can come from an unexpected quarter: customers. Pearce explains: “You see a lot of customers pinching application engineering talent from their supplier OEMs, certainly EOS faced this problem quite a bit.” On the one hand, it is good news in terms of AM adoption when a customer hires an application engineer in house, on the other hand it’s a headache for the supplier they pinched them from. How do you balance the 2?

As in every ecosystem, AM companies want access to a pool of AM specific talent, including talent from adjacent industries that is interested in 3D Printing. In fact, Pearce founded i-AMdigital following an Alexander Daniels engagement with HP to provide an AM specific platform for applicants and companies. However, when trying to monetize the platform he encountered the proverbial chicken and egg problem – companies wanted an established talent pool before posting jobs and talent wanted an established job board before signing up. Unless there are other sources of monetization (such as ads on media websites) it is probably hard to bootstrap such a platform. An industry organization, such as TCT or one of the AM media companies, that would pick up this glove would be most welcome. Organizations already have a pool of members and visitors (albeit not all looking for a new job!) and adding tools for companies to post jobs will increase the usefulness of the organization’s website (and its traffic) while hopefully not costing so much.

Muji to go 3D printed figurine

Candidate Needs

While the abovementioned platform would also benefit job candidates, there are additional needs candidates interested in Additive Manufacturing have. First and foremost, for those candidates coming from outside the AM ecosystem, training and courses they can take at their leisure would help them get a feel for the industry and make sure it is the right fit for them, while also making them more attractive for employers. HR professionals often say they want to see passion for AM even if it is only manifested on the low end of the market. For example, having access to a desktop/home 3D printer and “playing around” with it is a good sign. Candidates interested in AM need access to such machines at maker spaces and labs. Thankfully, there is an increasing number of such locations out there. Pearce also recommends internships, if they are available.

Another need I’ve heard on several HR-related discussions and webinars (such as the Women in 3D Printing session at FormNextConnect) and from many candidates (and, surprisingly, also global recruiters) is the need for transparency in the process. This means communicating with the hiring company or recruiter and timely responses from them that give some insight into where the candidate is in the process including timely notices on the next step, even if the next step is goodbye. In the initial step of applying, it is not so much an issue of transparency but rather of hearing back a “no” in a timely manner. It seems a little thing, but it is important to the candidate who cannot differentiate between a silence because it’s a no and a silence because the process at this company takes longer for whatever reason. Personally, as a hiring manager over the years, I’ve stuck to an initial response within 1 week at most – these days that doesn’t sound like much but in “normal times” with travel, conferences, and meetings this has often required a lot of discipline and effort on my part. I think it’s worth it.

And here are some recruiter tips for AM applicants from Nick Pearce: first, applicants tend to undersell themselves in their CV by concentrating on responsibilities rather than skills and applications. For example, if you have vertical experience with the automotive industry or aerospace industry, that definitely belongs in your CV. Second, choose the position best suited for you among those offered. Pearce discounts applicants that apply for many (7+) different jobs on their job board. At some companies, like Carbon, the HR department encourages people to say they want to work at this particular company even if there isn’t a current job appropriate for them.

Joris Laarman Lab - several 3D printed chairs

Recruiter Needs

Recruiters need transparency into companies’ needs and requirements through job assignments with specific briefs or job specs. In this respect, there is a need for flexibility and a process to determine the appropriate spec for each position. “We’re experts on talent in AM. If a client comes to us with a brief and we think it will be hard to fill, we need clients with an open mind to open the brief” says Pearce. Hodson explains that Kensington has a requirements capture document that they share with the companies and fill out with them before even taking on an assignment. This requirement capture process includes questions about why this position is needed and the urgency in which it is needed, aside from the specification of skills and experience and responsibilities. I can say, from LEO Lane’s point of view, that we used Israeli recruitment company Nisha, on a contingency basis, for our latest R&D hire with great results (shout out to Dafna Noy!) but we did think long and hard on our requirements before starting the process. What helped refine our requirements (and minimize them to just the really essential) was that we already have skilled talent in AM specific software on board and they can quickly bring someone from another background up to speed and continue to support them down the road. We also always make sure to give the recruiter specific feedback on each and every applicant to improve the fit of the following applicants..

Both recruiters I spoke with agree that a timely hiring process is definitely needed. “Time kills deals” Pearce says, explaining that this is both because good candidates find other positions and because delays make a bad impression on the candidate. Hodson says if a job opening isn’t filled in 6 months it is often because of one of 2 reasons: the requirements are ill defined or (in large companies mostly) the job is not really necessary, more like a nice to have as they have managed fine without it for 6 months.  It is often also important for recruiters to reach companies with hiring needs in a timely fashion. Both recruiters love working with early stage start ups, so information about seed and pre-seed AM start ups that just got funding would be useful to them.

Mixee 3D printed bobbleheads

Everyone’s Needs

Since last week Moshe Molcho wrote so eloquently about the need for diversity, I will not repeat it here except to say that this is everyone’s need. It is good for companies, candidates, recruiters and also our society at large. The other need that everyone shares is the need to push AM adoption forward, which will expand the ecosystem and increase the positions offered – but that’s a whole other #AMneeds post…

For more insights and information follow us on LinkedIn or subscribe to our newsletter for weekly updates. Pictures: 3D printed figurines from Mixee labs (top and bottom), Resoluut, and Muji; 3D printed chairs by Joris Laarman.

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