Help needed: Tech-savvy, skilled workers

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Some companies are working with local community colleges or setting up their own apprentice programs… but there’s no real national emphasis on developing that talent. I don’t see a resolution anytime soon… it’s not going to go away for 5 or 10 years.

October 14, 2022

Elizabeth Engler Modic, Editor
emodic@gie.net

Manufacturing isn’t the only industry suffering from a lack of employees; there are shortages in every industry – from teachers to hospitality to skilled machinists – and it’s not changing anytime soon.

Scott Hazelton, consulting director at IHS Markit addressed the question of worker shortages at a recent event, noting that, “We can’t fix the baby bust or that we have a large chunk of the workforce retiring, those with prime knowledge in either machinery or engineering talent… being replaced by typically younger individuals who have less experience. Additionally, we have a workforce where we’ve told kids they should get a college education because it has more value than working with your hands… now you can’t find a plumber or a mechanic. Some companies are working with local community colleges or setting up their own apprentice programs… but there’s no real national emphasis on developing that talent. I don’t see a resolution anytime soon… it’s not going to go away for 5 or 10 years.”

This isn’t the news you want to hear if you’re looking for skilled workers. However, this month is all about promoting manufacturing to students of all ages. MFG Day 2022 kicked off Oct. 5 and continues throughout the month with events across the country aimed at showing the next generation that manufacturing isn’t that old, dirty, dingy job your parents were warned against.

Manufacturing is changing. This is the topic in arecent report from McKinsey & Company. The authors note “reinvigoration of U.S. manufacturing will also require reinvention… making manufacturing more sustainable, more digital, more skilled, and more resilient.”

While sustainability focuses on switching to low-carbon sources to reduce greenhouse emissions, and digital consists of robotics, Industry 4.0, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and other technologies, more skilled is what will enable this path.

Workforce training lags the advancements in manufacturing as today’s companies need skilled workers that can develop, manage, and maintain automated equipment and digital processes. The authors note by 2030 the share of physical and manual tasks in the overall economy will have fallen by about 27% since 2016. Replacing these manual tasks will increase demand for technologically and cognitively skilled workers.

These are significant challenges manufacturers of any size must face, but these are the skills MFG Day needs to highlight – however one day or one month of promotion isn’t enough. At the beginning of COVID-19 shutdowns, manufacturing cut nearly 1.36 million jobs, but by August of this year manufacturing added back 1.43 million, an increase of 67,000 from pre-pandemic employment. But there are still more jobs to be filled.

What did your company do to promote MFG Day this year and what do you do year-round to help increase awareness of the great careers to be found in manufacturing? Drop me a line and let me know.