Currently, many manufacturers are reporting significant difficulty finding qualified people to fill their skilled job openings.
Unfortunately, the problem is probably going to get worse before it gets better. In the coming years, the manufacturing industry (and a few other key industries), will be deprived of a significant portion of their workforce.
As pointed out by a report from USnews.com , there are roughly "75 million baby boomers on the verge of retirement." This is an enormous chunk of the American workforce that is about to retire, taking with them their skills and talents.
Even though not every baby boomer who hits the age of 65 is going to retire immediately, enough will that manufacturers, who are already having a tough time filling their high-skill job openings, will find their talent woes worsened significantly.
Why the Retirement of Baby Boomers is a Concern for Manufacturers
According to research by Manpowergroup.com, three of the five hardest jobs to fill include:
Skilled Trade Workers (#1)
Each of these three job types are the roles that manufacturing companies rely on heavily to succeed. Just from personal experience, I know that Marlin Steel, my own steel manufacturing company, relies on these types of workers to get things done and improve productivity.
For example, engineers often optimize product designs to better meets clients' practical needs. These workers have a massive impact on innovation and productivity in manufacturing.
Technicians, on the other hand, are highly-skilled workers who have expert-level proficiency in operating specific tools or technology, making them very important to manufacturers who rely heavily on advanced manufacturing automation tools.
The term "skilled trade worker" is a broad job category, covering those workers who have to perform skilled manual labor on the production line. As such, they are a critical part of any manufacturing company's ability to work at all.
What makes these job categories so hard to fill?
A part of the problem is that they all require extensive training and experience that you don't often find in applicants that are coming out of high school.
This means that, as companies lose their older, more experienced workers, there aren't enough new skilled workers joining the workforce coming in to replace them.
Addressing the Upcoming Skilled Worker Shortage
Unfortunately, overcoming the loss of the baby boomer workforce is going to take more than just putting up a want ad in the local paper or hitting up the odd job fair. In a world dominated by the internet, these recruitment strategies just don't measure up.
To fill the jobs they need to fill, manufacturers have to go where the job seekers are. In this day and age, that means going online, building out a website, and working with business professional sites such as LinkedIn to find qualified applicants.
However, this won't do much good if there aren't any qualified applicants in your area to recruit.
This is why the manufacturing industry, as a whole, needs to invest in education and help to create the manufacturing workers of the future.
How can this be done? Here are a few ideas for individual manufacturers:
One thing that you can do is engage with local schools in your business' area to encourage the establishment of classes that teach basic manufacturing skills. Shop classes, for example. Encouraging developing young people to take part in classes that teach vital skills for the manufacturing industry will help to make it easier to find qualified new talent later on.
Additionally, you can sponsor community events and raise awareness about the career opportunities to be found in manufacturing. Many people simply don't apply for manufacturing work because they don't see a future in it or don't think the benefits are there. By being active in promoting manufacturing to the community, you can show these skeptics the real opportunities that are available in manufacturing.
A third option is to work on providing training to the younger employees in your current workforce, grooming them to take over for the baby boomers who are about to retire. This is something that Marlin Steel actively works on by encouraging every employee to pick up new job skills that the company needs. For each skill an employee learns, they receive a pay increase that is proportionate to the difficulty of the skill and how much it is needed.
Already, many companies are being affected by the loss of the baby boomer generation. As time goes on, it's only going to get more difficult to find qualified talent to fill your company's most vital manufacturing roles.
However, with some hard work and a little luck, there are ways your company can cope with the upcoming talent and skills shortage facing the manufacturing industry.