Necessity is the mother of invention. The entire industrial revolution was based on this premise. In the long history of American manufacturing, we’ve come to a critical juncture. There are new and complex challenges facing the manufacturing sector, but these issues present opportunity if leaders keep the right perspective.
The Challenge: The growing manufacturing skills gap
Over the past several years, manufacturers have worried about the skills gap present in the market. According to a 2014 study 1 by Accenture and The Manufacturing Institute, over 75% of respondents had a shortage of skilled workers. Especially in roles that require more than a high school diploma, but less than a four year degree, employees were hard to come by. Predictions state that by 2025, there could be as many as 2 million unfilled manufacturing jobs. Baby boomers are aging out of their jobs, and there simply aren’t enough workers to replace them. Manufacturers continue to struggle to grow their businesses with a shortage of the right workforce.
The Opportunity: Usher in a new era of skilled workers
The other side of this coin is that there is the potential to create an entirely new generation of highly-skilled workers. The Millennial generation boasts more than 77 million people. With the right tools in place, companies are poised to take advantage of an entirely new landscape in manufacturing.
Here are some tactical suggestions for developing industry talent:
- Identify talent needs. Be clear about where your gaps are and the specific numbers associated with those roles – how many people does each department need, and what are the metrics of their success?
- Create a talent pipeline. It’s important to have a constantly evolving list of potential candidates. Due to the high turnover rates in manufacturing, it will help you to have a pool of workers that are already “warm” to turn to as a first step in the process.
- Develop talent pool relationships. This step is key, as more schools and trade programs offer education and internships. Offer in-house mentoring and build programs to get younger people in the door and interested in your company.
- Recommit to talent development. Ensure your people feel properly onboarded and trained. Allow them to invest in their professional development. Today’s younger generation wants to feel heard and invested in. Make sure you create programs in your company that prove dedication to your employees for the long haul, and there will always be opportunities for growth.
- Help employees to embrace new technology. Many companies complain that their aging workforce resists technology that is necessary in today’s workforce. Help seasoned employees to advance their skill set and implement continuous learning.
To meet the demands of a booming manufacturing sector, business leaders need to embrace the modern workforce and create a culture that extends beyond the shop walls. Find great talent, cultivate relationships over time, and prove your commitment to continuous education. You’ll be well ahead of your competition in closing the skills gap once and for all.