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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

New Research on the Manufacturing Skills Gap

New research has been published by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute this week regarding manufacturing in the United States. The two parallel studies, The Skills Gap in U.S. Manufacturing: 2015 andBeyond and Overwhelming Support: Public Opinions on the Manufacturing Industry, observe and reflect on the fact that the skills gap in the sector has expanded in recent years and will continue to do so. What do the opinions of the American public have to do with the increase in this gap? Which factors must be addressed to adjust this trajectory? Below are three highlights from each study that manufacturers should consider.

Baby Boomer Retirement Is the Most Significant Impending Gap Factor
The anticipated mass exodus of baby boomers that will take place over the next few years has been ranked the highest in future gap expansion factors. According to data collected from manufacturing executives, 74% anticipate a significant or high impact in the amount of skilled production workers and 70% expect the same impact level in engineers, researchers, and scientists. Considering that skilled production jobs make up over 50% of the national manufacturing workforce, these retirements will likely be the biggest blow to companies.

Americans Value Manufacturing, But Don’t Put Their Faith in Its Future
When asked how important manufacturing is to maintain a strong American economy, 90% of respondents chose either “very important” or “important.” However, only 49% of respondents believe that the United States can effectively compete in the global marketplace, and 75% consider manufacturing jobs to be the first moved to other countries.

Exposure to Manufacturing Inspires Recommendation to Younger Generations
The strongest indicator of the national uncertainty mentioned above is the 63% of respondents who indicated that they were not likely to encourage their child to pursue a career in manufacturing. The silver lining to this statistic, and something to consider when recruiting, is that when the respondent had experience in or was familiar with the manufacturing industry, she was twice as likely to encourage her child to pursue manufacturing: 52% of high familiarity respondents would encourage, while only 21% of “no familiarity” respondents would.

The bottom line, according to the studies, is this: with the impending retirement of baby boomers and a lack of workers with sufficient STEM skills, the skills gap cannot be ignored any longer. It’s time for manufacturers to introduce an aggressive focus on presenting the industry as a viable and desirable career option to young people by reaching out to local schools and colleges. The studies also suggest that, along with an increase in appeal, the industry needs to improve applicant screening processes, better define competency models and skill requirements, and invest in internal training and development programs. Of course, None of these methods alone will close the skills gap, but with the input and investment of manufacturers, academia, communities, and government, a foundation can be established upon which to fill the gap.

At PMA, we work hard to fight the skills gap by addressing the recruitment and training of new manufacturing sector workers.  From sponsoring initiatives like MFG Day to working with American Jobs for America's Heroes, we're constantly striving to attract new talent.    


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