Agile Insights Blog

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Mind the Gap: How Manufacturers Can Fix the Skills Gap

Mar 1, 2022 11:41:00 AM

Even before “The Great Resignation”, the manufacturing industry had been struggling with filling open positions, with job openings increasing at double-digit rates since 2017 according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics employment survey. Post-pandemic, Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute predict that 2.1 million manufacturing positions will go unfulfilled by 2030, costing the U.S a loss of about $1 trillion in GDP. Without a drastic reversal in this downward trend, this deficiency could set the U.S. manufacturing industry back by decades.

One of the biggest reasons for the openings increase is the widening disparity between the jobs that need to be filled and the skilled talent pool capable of filling them – otherwise known as the manufacturing skills gap. Even when the workplace reopened after the initial COVID shutdowns, employers were only able to fill about 63% of the openings, leaving over half a million positions empty in 2020.

One might wonder why with the shift to automation and robotics the manufacturing industry is facing such a shortage. Even with this move towards automation, a human still needs to know how to man the machines, and oftentimes that means a different skill set than what was required in previous years.

So where did everyone go?

Highly trained Baby Boomers are either retiring or being lured away by the competition with higher incentives as businesses scramble for experienced talent. Younger generations have certain perceptions of the manufacturing industry based on the past experiences and stories told of their older parents or grandparents. They aren’t interested in the long hours in dark, laborious conditions with little pay. And even if these false perceptions can be changed, leaders in the manufacturing industry are looking for individuals with skill sets that many don’t have early in their careers – machine experience with overlapping robotics and automation skills.

What can be done to narrow this gap? Here are a few ways to find the employees you are looking for – and keep the ones you have.

  1.     Shift the perception of the younger generation. Understanding what misconceptions young workers and students have about the manufacturing industry is imperative. Conduct first-hand research to understand their pain points and reasons for not considering a position within the field or at your individual company. Are they aware of the shift towards robotics and engineering – not just manual labor as in the past? Do they think the pay is too low? Are they concerned about long-term upward movement? Are there safety concerns? Once the picture is clear, develop and distribute new messaging that addresses these pain points as you recruit and advertise available positions at your facility.
  2.     Scope out the competition. Is your competition getting talented new recruits or poaching your valued workers? It may be time to take a deeper dive into how prospective employees view your company versus the competition.
  3.     Show your employees some love. If you are seeing a higher than usual turnover rate, take a look at why. Simple research can give you a clear picture of how satisfied, or unsatisfied, your employees are. There could be many reasons why people are leaving – and you won’t know until you ask. Once you’ve done the research, show your employees that you’ve listened by taking action. You’ll see your retention rate improve and gain more loyal workers – which could also mean more referrals!
  4.     Invest in your talent. Many companies are looking for the perfect hire who has the experience required to jump right in, but as we mentioned earlier, this sort of recruit is hard to find. Consider incentives that pay for necessary skills training instead of asking current employees or new hires to cover those expenses. Paid internships for students are also a great way to introduce the industry to the younger generation while providing hands-on experience.

With record numbers of workers across all industries quitting their jobs, the manufacturing industry, already faced with labor challenges, must implement efforts to keep their current workers and hire new ones. Vennli can deliver the insights needed to educate the next generation of workers on the benefits of joining the manufacturing industry, as well as help hiring leaders understand why current workers may be leaving to join the competition - and how they can increase their employee retention.

Tracy Corry
Written by Tracy Corry

Digital Marketing Strategist with 20 years experience, dedicated to helping brands create meaningful connections with their customers.

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