Tackling the Manufacturing Skills Gap

According to a report from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), more than 25% of manufacturers had to turn down new business opportunities because of a lack of available workers to do the job. There is currently a fundamental skills gap in the U.S, resulting in a critical talent shortage affecting manufacturers. Many workers don’t feel they have the skills or abilities needed to operate in today’s technology-fueled manufacturing workforce. There is also a misconception that jobs in manufacturing don’t pay well. 

That requires a mass breakdown of popular misconceptions vs. realities. 

Popular Misconceptions vs. Present Realities 

Some might argue that the skills gap is less about a lack of skills and more about a lack of awareness of which skills can be applied to the manufacturing industry and within unique manufacturing environments. Younger generations, typically Millennials and Gen-Z, tend to think of manufacturing as an outdated industry that their parents and grandparents worked in, or only for those who went to a technical or vocational school. The reality is that modern manufacturing can be just as exciting and future-forward as Silicon Valley–and it can pay just as well, too. 

Manufacturers must work collectively to spread this message to the up-and-coming workforces. This can be done through strategic partnerships with educators and connecting with this target audience of new workers digitally by increasing and updating social media marketing efforts and demonstrating a strong online presence. 

Building An Optimistic Future 

Manufacturing companies are beginning to recognize the tremendous advantages of partnering with schools and higher education institutions to connect with students and share a broad spectrum of career opportunities available across the industry. 

Even more valuable than informing students about career opportunities is offering students hands-on experience through training apprenticeships and internships. Manufacturing apprenticeships are becoming more and more common. Apprenticeship programs provide manufacturing organizations with the ability to ensure workers are trained and certified to the greatest extent before assuming a role at the company. This type of program also increases workplace safety, as safety training is typically incorporated. By adapting to an apprenticeship model, companies can take ownership of developing their internal talent and make sure employees are efficiently trained for the job and integrated into the company.

On-the-job digital training opportunities are also starting to shift how the industry works and how the work is completed. For example, some organizations are turning to augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI), and virtual reality (VR) to live stream to employees while on the job, physically showing them how to perform the task at hand. Millennials and Gen-Z workers are more partial to digital learning, so this type of training is essential for attracting, building, and developing future workforces. Simulation learning, similar to gaming, is also familiar and appealing to younger employees. 

To tackle the manufacturing skills gap, manufacturing companies need to take several actions. Manufacturers must modernize and become Industry 4.0 capable, prioritize digital approaches, and, most importantly, communicate that manufacturing organizations offer safe, clean, well-paying, tech-forward, and innovative working environments, utilizing advanced approaches to advance their workforces.

To learn more about modernizing your small or mid-sized manufacturing organization or strategic approaches to address talent or skill gaps within your unique environment, contact Catalyst Connection