It’s been widely reported that there is a skilled-labor shortage affecting the manufacturing industry in the U.S. Rather than a lack of employment opportunities, the problem is the lack of employees.
Over the next decade, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will become vacant due to the retirement of baby boomers and economic expansion. But, half these jobs could go unfilled as fewer than 10 percent of high school and college graduates are entering manufacturing today.
This skills gap is due to an incorrect perception of the manufacturing industry as a whole and of the jobs, duties and talent requirements of those entering the field.
One reason behind the upcoming shortage of skilled labor is the lack of interest and knowledge about today’s plants. When many people think about working in a plant or factory, they see an outdated vision of low-tech plant floors, a gritty working environment, and dangerous machinery.
And, given, the new “ideal” work environment desired by Millennials and Generation Z, this image doesn’t make the manufacturing industry very appealing.
But, the reality is that manufacturing plays a large role in boosting a region’s economic growth and vitality. And, to ensure they can keep growing and contributing to the local and national economy, many companies are modernizing the systems that run their business, improving operations, and investing in the latest technologies.
The business of manufacturing has not only gotten more complex but also more “digital” as manufacturers work to embrace the technologies that will move them forward. So, rather than employees that stand on an assembly line, companies need employees that will focus on problems that directly impact the bottom line.
In a 2016 State of Manufacturing Technology Report based on a survey of Plex customers, results reveal that data analysis skills are just as important to manufacturers as engineering skills in the next generation of employees.
According to Sara Staggs, director of divisional operations for Aerotek’s Commercial Division (a provider of recruiting and staffing services), the demand for skilled professionals is at a 10-year high across all industries. So, to fill this gap and attract the talent that will help move the industry forward, manufacturers need to focus on getting ahead of the digital wave.
One example of this is moving business and operational systems to the cloud.
Young, tech-savvy workers are interested in fields that involve information management, analytics, and innovation. So, focusing on the technologies that centralize data and spur innovation will attract talented individuals looking for innovative opportunities.
While there is no perfect solution to filling the skills gap, manufacturers that embrace modern technology and focus their best and brightest on problem-solving rather than simply managing systems and performing updates will attract more talent in the upcoming years.