If one were to ask almost any laboratory owner what one of their biggest challenges is, the answer would likely revolve around finding, and keeping, good employees. Even laboratories that are open to hiring those new to the industry and training are still struggling to just find people. This employment gap, however, is not unique to dental laboratory technology. Many industries are struggling.
“This is all about bringing awareness and education to do what we do for the doctors and patients.” – Michael Zavada
According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in 2022, more than 50 million workers quit their jobs. These workers were in search of better work/life balance, increased compensation, and a strong company culture. Their latest data shows that there are 9.9 million job openings in the U.S. but only 5.8 million unemployed workers. This means if every unemployed person found a job, there would still be 4.2 million opened jobs. They also shared these eye-opening statistics:
- We have nearly three million fewer Americans participating in the labor force today compared to February of 2020.
- As of October 2021, the pandemic drove more than 3 million adults into early retirement.
- Twenty-seven percent of unemployed survey respondents indicated that the need to be home and care for children or other family members has made the return to work difficult or impossible.
- More than a quarter (28%) indicated that they have been ill and their health has taken priority over looking for work.
- The pandemic created a vicious cycle for the industry; to return to work, workers need reliable childcare, but providers are facing immense challenges themselves. The pandemic forced many childcare providers to close or scale down: between February and April 2020, the industry lost 370,600 jobs — 95% of which were held by women.
Bearing all of this in mind might help to understand the problem, but it still does not solve it. As the industry representative, NADL understands that this is a serious concern for our members and the industry as a whole. In response, as part of their strategic plan, they identified occupational awareness as one of the primary areas to address.
Michael Zavada, vice president operations – Great Lakes National Dentex, LLC, is a member of NADL’s occupational awareness committee. The last few years have brought him many challenges when it comes to recruiting new team members. Zavada decided it was time to do something to create change.
He said, “People don’t understand what a dental lab technician does or what the career possibilities are. Trying to get people to apply for positions is hard when they are not aware of what we do on a daily basis to help people feel better about life. So that’s why I joined the NADL Occupational Awareness campaign. This is all about bringing awareness and education about what we do for the doctors and the patients.”
NADL is using different forms of social media to increase awareness with younger people, including ads running on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and TikTok, and has an active Google Ad Words campaign targeting those who search keywords such as career(s) in dentistry, dental laboratory technican, and many more, all driving people to the NADL Career Page at www.nadl.org/career. NADL also created an educational career video on YouTube, which has had almost 33,000 views since it was posted in late 2022, and in the near future, will have a toolkit available for members to bring to their local communities to generate hiring opportunities. In order to be successful, however, it can’t just be the efforts of the organization, but rather, those in the industry itself. For those willing to help, Zavada recommends becoming actively involved in community education and meeting with high schools, colleges, and vocational programs to increase awareness.
Michael A. Farago, chief executive officer of Concord Dental Laboratory, CDL, wanted to be a part of increasing awareness and also joined the committee.
“In my experience, the challenges faced when trying to find talent have all tied back to a lack of visibility in the industry,” said Farago. If you are advertising a role that could be applicable to someone without any DLT experience, then you are fighting the battle that much of the public is unaware that the industry exists. If you are looking for an experienced technician, then you are fighting the fact that within entire regions there is a missing awareness of the labs that exist.”
“Within entire regions there is a missing awareness of the labs that exist.” – Michael A. Farago
The NADL occupational awareness campaign is working to show the public what a dental lab is, does, and what a career in DLT can offer them. The introduction of digital techniques in this space has opened the door to welcome people into this industry that never would have considered it in the past. The opportunities in this industry are growing, and all economic factors indicate that they will continue to grow for the foreseeable future. The NADL is working hard to attract a new, energized, and dynamic workforce.
“If you have not considered joining or volunteering with the NADL – do it,” said Farago. “This awareness campaign is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to projects being undertaken to better this industry. Big or small, there is an opportunity for everyone to have a part in spreading awareness, fighting for fair legislation, and creating an overall stronger future for the DLT community.”
Originally published in the Journal of Dental Technology August/September 2023