Help wanted: American manufacturing competitiveness and the looming skills gap

A skills gap is the US manufacturing sector’s Achilles’ heel, with nearly 3.4 million jobs at stake over the next decade. It is no longer a short-term issue of filling current hard-to-fill open positions, or one that can reasonably be expected to be solved in time by government policy-makers.

Over the next decade, America’s manu­facturing sector will require an estimated 3.4 million workers to fill vacant roles. Nearly 2 million of these jobs will remain unfilled due to a skills gap—a lack of qualified work­ers capable of performing in an advanced manufacturing environment—and this study addresses the issues driving this deficit and what manufacturers can do to overcome them.

The skills gap is driven by several factors including: The retirement of an estimated 2.7 million Baby Boomers over the course of the next decade; a shallow, stagnant talent pipe­line that is not improving quickly; today’s work­ers have a lack of basic technical training and struggle with technology, computer, math, and problem solving skills; an influx of jobs follow­ing the recession; and, the need for a class of workers with new skills.

This lack of skilled workers combined with an outdated recruiting mentality is limiting the U.S. manufacturing sector from remaining competitive in the global market. The study present recommendations for improving these conditions and advancing the manufacturing sector in the United States.

By 2025, there will likely be 700,000 new jobs in manufacturing and the challenge lies in finding skilled workers to fill these new roles. In order to remain competitive, manufacturers need a new approach to recruiting, managing, and developing talent. This challenge is com­pounded by a negative industry image which could deter younger generations from pursu­ing careers in manufacturing. To address this, manufacturers should focus on:

Recruiting talent: Manufacturers can recruit from untapped talent sources including women, veterans, and the long-term unemployed. To do this manufactur­ers will also need to question stereotypes and challenge old assumptions about what skills are necessary and which workers may ultimately be successful. Manufacturers also need to do some marketing to help adjust the image of the manufacturing industry.

Managing talent: Manufacturers need to manage their talent pipeline like a supply chain and use an analytics-driven approach to take advantage of HR data. Also, HR departments should transition from delivering services to driving HR strategies where HR outcomes are business outcomes. This will empower their HR leadership team to help achieve business goals.

Developing talent: Manufacturers must invest in training and development pro­grams to foster employees’ long-term career development and growth.


Help wanted: American manufacturing competitiveness and the looming skills gap
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