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Groups collaborate to fill jobs in industrial distribution

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CHICAGO—A group of industrial distribution associations is being proactive to fill jobs at their member companies.

Prospects don't need an advanced degree or a highly specialized skill to be qualified for these positions. A willingness to learn, enthusiasm, problem solving skills and—depending on the requirements of the position—some education and/or technical experience are all that's needed.

"As is the case with all industries, industrial distribution is experiencing a shortage of qualified candidates to fill the openings created by retiring baby boomers," said Mary Jawgiel, program director for Industrial Careers Pathway. "This shortage is caused by fewer people entering the work force and the skills gap of those in the millennial generation looking for employment. There is a disconnect between the skills needed for various entry level positions and the skills possessed by candidates."

Industrial distributors supply industry, manufacturers and government with products to operate businesses. Companies within this sector are seeking candidates for positions such as inside and outside sales; marketing; accounting; customer service; and warehousing, according to Jawgiel. The target age is 18-34.

"It kind of runs the gamut," she said. "You can be a welder and work for someone in industrial distribution, but you don't have to be a welder in order to be in industrial distribution. It's kind of nice that way, because you can move from area to area."

All kinds of those jobs—nearly 1,200 at last count—are listed on the job board posted at, the website of the Industrial Careers Pathway, a collaborative, multifaceted North American work force initiative driven by four industrial distribution organizations.

The organizations—the American Supply Association; the Industrial Supply Association Education Foundation; NAHAD, the Association for Hose and Accessories Distribution; and Power Transmission Distributors Association—support the organization's mission, "to meet the need for a skilled industrial work force for today and tomorrow," Jawgiel said.

The ICP website is rich with resources. It not only includes informational videos to prepare prospective candidates, but it also offers detailed descriptions of industrial distribution careers; a guide for internships; advice for teachers and parents who might influence young adults into pursuing these careers; and a link to a database of industrial distribution employers.

The ICP job board includes jobs from members of the four associations as well as positions advertised through other job-seeking services. Interested candidates also may post their resumes.

The website isn't the only avenue that the ICP uses to carry its message to prospective job candidates.

The group pursues outreach in educational institutions, particularly at Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, Mich., and a couple of other community colleges in the U.S. It uses social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube, to promote its message.

One of its most successful ways to reach its audience is through its Ambassadors Program. These are representatives from one of the four sponsoring organizations who volunteer their time and resources to spread the word about the job openings, through career fairs, trade shows and presentations at high schools or community colleges. The program currently has around 55 ambassadors across the U.S.

"(They) even talk with another business or a chamber of commerce, where maybe the moms and dads would be, about the great opportunity for younger kids to think about careers in industrial distribution," Jawgiel said. "Getting involved at the local level is really where things are going to start and how things are going to happen because it is so localized. If you have an industrial distributor in your area, they need to get out and tell people who they are."

Jawgiel suggests any interested job candidates peruse the ICP website carefully. She said some companies don't advertise positions, so if a job seeker is interested in working for a particular company that doesn't list openings, she suggests he or she call them to request an informational interview.

"Check the ICP job board, post your resume, put some alerts out there," she said. "So, for example, if you want an inside sales job in Chicago, make sure you have an alert out there so that once something like that is posted, it emails you back and says there's something out there for you.

"Overall, there are not enough qualified candidates to fill the open positions."