In the ever-evolving landscape of manufacturing, companies are continually challenged with maintaining a skilled workforce. The recent surge in workforce shortages has left many businesses scrambling to keep up with production demands. However, there’s a beacon of hope in this challenge – FlexTrades. In this article, we explore how manufacturing companies can leverage FlexTrades to effectively overcome workforce shortages and sustain their growth and productivity.

Understanding the Workforce Shortage Challenge

The manufacturing sector is experiencing an unprecedented shortage of skilled workers. Factors such as an aging workforce, a skills gap and evolving industry needs contribute to this growing issue. The repercussions are significant, ranging from decreased production capacity to increased operational costs. Addressing this shortage requires innovative and adaptive strategies, which is where FlexTrades steps in.

The FlexTrades Solution: A Game-Changer for Manufacturers

1. Access to a Diverse Talent Pool:

  • FlexTrades provides manufacturing companies with access to a wide-ranging pool of skilled workers. From experienced machinists to specialized technicians, their network is a treasure trove of talent ready to be tapped into.

2. Scalability and Flexibility:

  • One of the critical advantages of partnering with FlexTrades is the ability to scale your workforce based on fluctuating production needs. This flexibility ensures that companies can efficiently manage workload peaks without the burden of long-term staffing commitments.

3. Specialized Skills for Modern Manufacturing:

  • As manufacturing technologies evolve, so does the need for specialized skills. FlexTrades stays ahead of industry trends, offering workers who are not only skilled in traditional manufacturing techniques but are also adept with new technologies and processes.

4. Reducing Hiring Time and Costs:

  • The traditional hiring process can be lengthy and expensive. FlexTrades streamlines this process, allowing manufacturers to quickly onboard skilled workers, thus reducing downtime and recruitment costs.

5. Focus on Core Business Activities:

  • By managing workforce solutions, FlexTrades allows manufacturing companies to concentrate on their core business activities, like production optimization and innovation, rather than the intricacies of HR and staffing.

Real-World Impact and Success Stories

Manufacturing companies that have partnered with FlexTrades have seen tangible benefits. From small-scale operations to large industrial plants, the ability to swiftly adapt to workforce needs has enabled these companies to maintain steady production rates, meet project deadlines and stay competitive in the market.

Embracing the Future of Manufacturing with FlexTrades

As we navigate the complexities of the modern manufacturing landscape, the importance of a reliable, skilled and adaptable workforce cannot be overstated. FlexTrades emerges as a pivotal partner for manufacturing companies, offering solutions that not only address immediate workforce shortages but also pave the way for sustained growth and success in an ever-changing industry. 

This brief, semi-viral clip, stitched together by several thousand satirically minded TikTokers, is one that has stuck with me for several reasons. First and foremost being that this particular TikTok creator is entirely correct. We do need Electricians, and plumbers and, really, when you look at labor statistics, skilled tradespeople across the board.

An Entire Generation Lost in Too Much Information

As a millennial, I come from a demographic of approximately seventy-one million individuals who were told that anything less than a four-year college degree meant that you would not succeed in life. At no point during my public-school education was the possibility of trade school even suggested to me. In large part, I believe that was due to my inability to operate the simplest of power tools without subsequently requiring a trip to Urgent Care. That being said, my peers were equally neglected when it came to exploring alternative educational options.

This ideology was further reinforced once I entered the workforce and found that most jobs willing to provide a livable wage required a bachelor’s degree. I soon learned that it didn’t really matter what degree I held. My education was treated more as a box to be checked by a hiring manager.

The result of such an emphatic push for the youth of America to go the college route has left a dwindling population of skilled laborers. This population grows smaller every day as more and more workers age into retirement without a fresh supply to replenish their ranks.

While Alex on TikTok may have made his plea in jest, the resultant push towards collegiate life and the overall classist opinion of blue-collar work has led to a very real and increasingly serious problem. “We need electricians.”

Is the work going to be more physically strenuous in a skilled trade than a traditional 9-5 office job? Absolutely. But many would argue that, if you’re able, the rewards far outstrip the negatives. What rewards are those, you ask? First and foremost, in these uncertain economic times… job security.

With news of layoffs in all sectors coming through every day and all over the country, job security may seem unrealistic to hope for. However, given the shortage in workers, combined with the fact that it’s so hands on, a welder isn’t exactly the type of position that can be exported overseas. They need that welder in the shop and ready to work onsite, and many companies are willing to pay a premium to get those workers in as soon as possible.

Show Me the Money

The bottom line when many graduating high schoolers are assessing their options is going to be pay. It is the minority of youths in America who know for certain what they want to do with their life, and even fewer still who work in the field they went to school for. When money plays such a huge factor in the decision-making process, it is impossible to deny the benefits of trade school.

College tuition has skyrocketed faster than the overall inflation rate to round out prices that make even the most financially secure cringe in agony.

Given that most trade school programs are two years versus four, that’s already half the cost in time and money. Even further though, trade schools are cheaper per year than a traditional university, further cutting those financial hardships. Student loan debt, anyone?

The Education Data Initiative estimates that the average college student builds up over $30k in debt whether they graduate or not. Keeping that in mind, the average cost to obtain a degree from most trade schools is $33,000 with the average cost for a bachelor’s degree pricing in at roughly $132,000.

Already, we’re looking at a $100,000 incentive to go into a trade rather than pursue a more “traditional” role in corporate America. Assuming you chose a life as a machinist over life at a desk, who would your competition be?

Roughly 66% of high school graduates go straight from K-12 into an undergraduate program of some sort. Of those students, 46% report that they work in the field they went to school for. Leaving a staggering 54% – myself included – to check HR’s box for higher education by achieving a diploma, but really what we have is a very expensive mousepad.

Looking at the numbers, half of your peers are vying for white collar jobs. But what about the blue-collar positions? Despite the lucrative benefits highlighted in this article, a mere 16% of surveyed high school graduates enrolled in a vocational or trade school.

The long and short of it is this… if you’re looking to work in an ever-growing field, use your hands and never having to type ‘per my last e-mail,’ I would highly encourage a look at the world of skilled labor.

Afterall, you may really like what you find!

Every technician has a toolbox, but what do you NEED to have in it? While there’s no “right” answer, here is a list of tools that FlexTrades’ most successful technicians always have in their toolboxes – and some recommendations for the average Joe, too.

Hand Tools

  • Wrenches
  • Hand Drivers
  • Pliers
  • Hammers
  • Chisels & Punches
  • Files & Deburring Tools

Power Tools

  • Drills & Drivers
  • Cutters & Saws
  • Grinders & Sanders

Measuring Tools

  • Calipers & Micrometers
  • Square
  • Scale
  • Indicators & Edge Finders


  • Flashlights
  • Calculator
  • Markers & Soapstone
  • Notebook

Hand Tools for Your Toolbox


Machinists and maintenance technicians need a good set of wrenches, ratchets, and sockets in typical SAE and metric sizes. A good adjustable wrench and a set of Allen wrenches are also must haves. Most also carry a quality torx set because of their prevalence in industrial settings.

Hand Drivers

Hand drivers may be the toothbrush of tools; rarely appreciated though used every day, but that’s what makes them essential. Every technician prefers a power tool for any job, but sometimes you can’t get power tools where they need to be. A good selection of hand drivers with varied lengths and a multitude of heads (slotted, Philips, square, etc.) can often be a big job saver.



Whether used for holding work pieces, trimming and stripping wires or turning the nut a wrench can’t reach, a technician can never have too many pliers. From slip-joint to locking and needle-nose to linesman’s, make sure this tool is well represented in your bag.


Technician or not, everybody knows about hammers, but those used in manufacturing aren’t your father’s claw hammer. It doesn’t matter if you need to set tooling and fixtures, make repairs, fine adjustments, or just knock something loose. A good collection of specialty hammers such as ball peens, brass, and dead blows will more than pull their weight in the shop.

Chisels & Punches

Sets of up to 1” for chisels and punches can go a long way for working on tooling, fixtures and finished work pieces. Having them may also be the difference between saving the machine, the tool, or your fingers from unnecessary damage in the process.

Files & Deburring Tools

Files and deburring tools are integral for finish work on parts and features for both machinists and welders. Owning a great set of both is often all that separates a tedious job from an impossible one especially when dealing with fine materials or high tolerance pieces.

Power Tools for Your Toolbox

Drills & Drivers

Drills and drivers replace hand tools, where appropriate, to save time and physical strain. Recent advancements in battery technology now allow many companies to make great entries in this field. However, regardless of brand, the choice will always be between power and physical profile (smaller drills = smaller, less powerful batteries). Be honest about the work you do most or be prepared to see this collection grow quickly.

Cutters and Saws

Cutters and saws help make faster, more accurate, cuts more often than hand tools. You can choose from corded or cordless varieties, and both have their advantages. The convenience and portability of cordless versions normally win in most scenarios. Remember though, it’s still a battery tool. The same considerations apply to these as mentioned for drills and drivers.

Milwaukee 2720-21 M18 Fuel Sawzall Reciprocating Saw Kit

Grinders and Sanders

A quality belt sander and an angle grinder, with both cutting and grinding heads, are essential for rough maintenance and fine finish work. It doesn’t matter if you’re a welder, machinist, or maintenance technician – you will have to clean up weld slag or tool chatter at some point. Pro tip, if you need to use either for more than a few minutes at a time, go with the corded version. Cordless sanders and grinders drain batteries quickly!

Measuring Tools for Your Toolbox

Calipers and Micrometers

A quality 0-1” micrometer and a good 6” caliper will take any machinist a long way by accommodating most typical sized work pieces and features. If you need a bigger range for your daily work, then your toolbox is probably already in great shape without this list. Pro tip: Analog dials never have batteries die, but digitals have fewer parts that need cleaning to maintain accuracy over time.


Machinist square or combo square, both will help you start and check your work. You won’t get far without one or the other. When buying, go for sturdy over fancy.

Scale (Ruler)

A 6” scale is standard, and I recommend sticking with metal for durability and accuracy. Indicators and edge finders are essential for setting your axis, finding the edge of your part and fine-tuning settings. A scale is often overlooked, but you’re simply not a machinist without it.
*Pros can get their measuring tools piece by piece or in a kit to meet all needs, like this one from Insize. But most Joes can get by with just a good tape measure like this classic from Stanley.

Miscellaneous Items 


Flashlights make it easier to do work when you can see it. Get a few and make sure at least one has a flexible head. Magnetic bases frequently come in handy too.


Don’t use your phone as a calculator – there’s a greater chance you’ll wreck it. A calculator capable of performing trig functions is a must for multi-axis machining.


Being able to read your markings on greasy, oily metal is essential in production environments and being able to remove the markings after is a plus.


This is your most important tool as a technician because it allows you to reference work you’ve done and make sure you can apply that previous knowledge to the current job at hand.

Tool Storage

When you go to the job, your tools need to come with you. FlexTrades’ traveling technicians all need a quality toolbox that is portable, adjustable, and lockable. This 22-inch rolling system from Husky is a great option! If you’re wondering what to do with the tools you decide to leave at home, they need to be stored properly as well. We suggest you watch this interview with Stor-Loc, a great American-made option, before deciding on your next tool chest!

Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)

Every work site has its own requirements for PPE, but they all begin with boots. Steel or composite safety toes are the standard, but built-in internal metatarsal protection boots are becoming more common all the time. Waterproofing, slip resistance, and electrical ratings are other things to consider when buying boots. Something like this pair from Red Wings checks all those boxes.

Hard hats or helmets, safety glasses, and hearing protection are often provided by the employer, but every technician has a favorite that works best for their job. When you find yours, buy two immediately!

Position specific equipment like auto-darkening visors for welders and respirators for painters are also PPE worth considering.

While this list is not definitive, it’s a great start to building your kit. See what your toolbox is lacking and consider adding some missing items.

If your collection already includes everything mentioned above, and you know how to use it, you’re probably ready for a career in the manufacturing industry. Send your resume to and we’ll get you started!

Nearly everything around you is made in a manufacturing facility. These facilities combine the power of human hands and machinery to produce the consumer goods you want. With consumer demand comes the need for not only reliability, but also repeatability. As a result, manufacturers look to automate production processes as much as possible and with automation comes PLCs.

What are PLCs?

PLC stands for Programmable Logic Controller. In short, PLCs are computers connected to machinery to automate and monitor the machinery and its operations. To do this, PLCs scan input devices from the machinery, process what that input means, and send reactionary (programmed) functions to output devices. This process creates the desired operation in the machinery. Input devices include sensors, switches, thermometers, etc. while output devices can include valves, pumps, fans, and alarms, among others.

For a simple example, think of a light switch and a light bulb. When the switch is flipped (input), a PLC would realize that a light needs to turn on. The PLC sends a programmed action to the lightbulb (output) and the lightbulb turns on.

PLC to Lamp on wall

Another simple example (specific to manufacturing) would include a temperature sensor (input device) reading that the machine is operating at levels that are too hot. The PLC then analyzes that input and determines that a fan (output device) needs to turn. The PLC program pushes out a programmed command to the fan which then turns on and cools the temperature to an acceptable level.

In addition to scanning the inputs, programs, and outputs, the PLC also performs what’s called housekeeping. This step is where the PLC consistently monitors itself and internal diagnostics among other items.

The PLC scan process is continuous and cyclical in nature. It’s a never-ending loop.

PLC Scan Process

The PLC Scan Process

PLC Programming

When explained, PLCs seem simple. It’s an “if this, then that” equation. However, it’s complicated work to determine all of the potential “if this, then that” occurrences in a machine, especially in high-tech or complex machinery. Writing this “if this, then that” PLC program takes careful thought, an in-depth understanding of the machinery (which can include all mechanical, electrical, pneumatic, and/or hydraulic systems and components), an in-depth understanding of the desired machine operations and knowledge of every input and desired output. Once these details are attained, the program is ultimately a long list of “if this input, then that output,” but a complicated list.

Picture of a programmable logic controller in working state.

How is this done? By a PLC Programmer or a Controls Engineer.

PLC Programmers

Not only do PLC Programmers write the long list of code for machine operations according to inputs and outputs, but they’ll also create and design schematics, install (or assist) in the installation of the PLC (remember, it’s essentially a computer connected to the machine), and also test the PLC and the program that’s written to ensure it’s operational.

Interested in being a PLC Programmer? A great place to start is at school. Employers prefer master’s degrees in electrical engineering, computer science or other similar programs. However, relevant experience would include a bachelor’s degree in either of those studies with hands-on PLC experience, as well. If you’re already working in manufacturing, make it clear that you’re interested in PLC programming or want to be a PLC Programmer. Often times, PLC Programmers become PLC Programmers through on-the-job training.

Are you a PLC Programmer? Join the PMG team for the opportunity to travel and explore new places, learn new techniques, create flexibility in your schedule, and work with some of the greatest manufacturers in the US. Apply Here!