Correcting the Manufacturing Skill Gap

April 25, 2018

There will be two million manufacturing jobs that will go unfilled by 2025 due to skill gap leaving businesses without the workforce they need to grow, compete, and meet consumer demand.


Nearly half of the US employers are already reporting difficulty filling jobs, particularly skilled trades and technicians (production, operations and maintenance). Talent shortages lead to high overtime costs, and higher salaries commanded by in-demand skilled workers. Studies indicate that for every three months a position remains unfilled, a company loses an average of $14,000. The skills gap is currently costing the average manufacturer 11% of annual earnings. If manufacturers want to remain competitive, they will have to undertake the training and skill development of their workers and equip them with the required skills.


Reasons for skill gap:


  • The baby boomers are retiring. Baby boomers, the demographic cohort born between 1946 and 1964, have been steadily hitting retirement age since 2011. They’re leaving the workforce and taking their wealth of experience and embedded knowledge with them.

  • The manufacturing sector is growing.  The current strength of the economy and the re-shoring of manufacturing jobs have contributed to a manufacturing renaissance.

  • There are more skilled positions.  High-tech “smart” machines with sophisticated electrical components and digital connectivity are maximizing efficiencies and accelerating production, but also require more advanced  skills to operate and repair. 

  • A recent poll found that 52% of teenagers did not wish to pursue a career in manufacturing, while 61% saw it as a dirty or dangerous environment that did not require thinking and offered little opportunity for personal growth. Early education can change this misconception. There is no reason why manufactures cannot attract more millennial talent. The millennial generation is looking to be creative and leave their mark. 

  • There is a lack of STEM talent from educational institutions. At the same time the number of jobs and skill level expectations are increasing, schools are graduating fewer students interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers.




How to resolve the issue:


  1. Make training mobile.                                                                                                                      The manufacturing workforce has many different shifts and hours. Training that is accessible anywhere through mobile-optimized learning is a good approach. The number of owned smartphones will only increase. 

  2. Create streamlined content.                                                                                                  Snippets of training that are accessible when needed for a particular task will assist the average attention span. The average attention span is decreasing yearly, content needs to be concise and engaging.

  3. Focus on skills that give employees an edge.                                                                          Teach skills from managers, company executives and other leaders who have expertise that employees can not find anywhere else. These unique, specialized perspectives will give employees the skills they need to have a competitive edge. Good leaders prepare their team for their next career step. Well trained employees coming from your organization reflect well on your brand.                                                      

  4. Payback for training.                                                                                                                      Fostering a culture of learning will have a solid return on investment. Ignoring skills-building may drive top performers to move on to another company. Nearly 53 percent of employees surveyed in the Bridge study indicated they would be likely or very likely to leave their job due to insufficient or ineffective opportunities for growth and learning.


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