2018 skills gap in manufacturing study

Future of manufacturing: The jobs are here, but where are the people?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is transforming the world of work through artificial intelligence, advanced robotics, automation, analytics, and the Internet of Things. Despite common fears, these technologies are likely to create more jobs than they replace—as illustrated by the tight labor conditions in the US and global manufacturing industry.

Managing the shortfall of manufacturing workers

For more than two centuries, the manufacturing industry has adopted new technologies and provided new jobs for workers. Today, the industry is experiencing exciting and exponential change, as technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and Internet of Things (IoT) are rapidly changing the workplace. While some predicted that these new technologies would eliminate jobs, we have found the reverse—more jobs are actually being created.

In fact, job openings have been growing at double-digit rates since mid-2017, and are nearing the historical peak recorded in 2001.1 In this dynamic manufacturing environment, Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute launched their fourth skills gap study to reevaluate their prior projections and move the conversation forward on today’s hiring environment and the future of manufacturing work. The results appear to highlight a widening gap between the jobs that need to be filled and the skilled talent pool capable of filling them.

The study reveals that the skills gap may leave an estimated 2.4 million positions unfilled between 2018 and 2028, with a potential economic impact of 2.5 trillion. Further, the study shows that the positions relating to digital talent, skilled production, and operational managers may be three times as difficult to fill in the next three years.

How can the manufacturing industry get ready for the future of work and prepare workers to work with robots and advanced technologies? What are the skills that will become must-haves in the workplace? What are the pathways for training and education to enable these skills? Finding potential solutions to close the manufacturing skills gap begins by exploring what’s possible for future jobs.

Is the future of work in manufacturing at risk?

Reimagining manufacturing jobs

To help manufacturing leaders visualize the future of work, we’ve developed a series of personas that describe what jobs could look like in 2028. These jobs are described from the standpoint of the workers themselves, exploring how their work has changed, what skills and career pathways they have, the digital tools that assist them in their work, and what a normal day on the job looks like.

Bringing these jobs to life can help business leaders, workers, educators, and policymakers shape their vision and spark conversations around what may need to change.

These future personas represent our research on the manufacturing skills gap and reflect several important themes:

  • Putting humans in the loop
  • Expanding digital and “soft” skills
  • Leveraging the digital toolbox

Future of work manufacturing personas

Future of work in manufacturing

With digital technologies poised to transform work, explore what the future of manufacturing jobs will look like in this digital era

Blending digital skills and uniquely human skills

As digital transformation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution redefine manufacturing jobs, leaders and workers alike need to embrace a new work environment. Here, advanced technology and digital skills must blend with uniquely human skills to yield the highest level of productivity. Understanding how work might change can help the industry as a whole prepare for a future that promises to be transformative.


BLS, “Job openings and labor turnover survey,” August 7, 2018.

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