Tight Labor Market Means Time to Reskill

Posted By: Jeannine Kunz, Vice President, Tooling U-SME on April 30, 2019

Tight Labor Market Means Time to Reskill

A recent story by Lauren Weber in The Wall Street Journal, highlights how, in this tight labor market, companies are starting to retrain the workers they have.

At Tooling U-SME, we see every day how reskilling manufacturing workers reduces recruiting costs and builds engaged, loyal employees by offering clear career pathways.

The digital transformation of the industry makes this approach more essential than ever. As technology such as automation, 3D printing, and robotics become the norm, companies are scrambling to fill jobs that demand new skills. Incumbent employees who already know your company are a logical solution.

As the article outlines, “The digital revolution is upending companies and workers in all sorts of roles, from blue-collar factory laborers to white-color tech professionals. But for many positions with a limited future, there are a host of ‘skill-adjacent’ career alternatives that require varying levels of reskilling or educational attainment.”

The Journal provides examples of ways an assembly machine operator’s skills could evolve. For instance, from a salary of $25,000, the operator could move to a quality technician role earning $34,562. From there, with more training, the employee could become an automation technician making more than $50,000.

There is lots of upward mobility for workers.

Yet the decision to reskill workers is not always a given. According to the article, this is because sometimes the skills required aren’t easily taught to employees or because “companies have only a hazy sense of what their internal talent is capable of, and migrating large numbers of employees into new positions requires time, money and commitment.”

That’s why we encourage the manufacturers we work with to spend the time defining job roles and developing competencies. This includes looking ahead to the jobs of the future to determine which new skills and knowledge are needed, and to plan for the investment.

In the article, Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the Initiative on the Digital Economy at MIT, seems to agree with our long-time concern that while companies will invest in technology and equipment, they are reluctant to put that same investment into their people.

He said that investing in new technology can often be easier for companies than negotiating the organizational challenges that come with reskilling workers.

“Human capital is quantitatively a much bigger share of the capital in the economy than physical assets like plants, technology and equipment, and we understand it less well,” Brynjolfsson said.

Leaders must make their workforce a strategic priority if they want their companies to maximize growth.

According to the Tooling U-SME Industry Pulse Manufacturing Workforce Report, 92% said upskilling the incumbent workforce is a top challenge. Fortunately, companies can start addressing this now by instituting a formal training program, encouraging continual education, and properly upskilling those responsible for training workers.

It's imperative that manufacturers start now to train their employees – and their trainers – effectively, so these workers fully understand how to use equipment and technology to their fullest, as well as improve processes and generate new ideas. This will also lead to more engaged and productive workers.

Learn more about how we are helping companies like yours leverage their number one asset....people.

Tags: "3D printing", automation, "Erik Brynjolfsson", "Industry Pulse Manufacturing Workforce Report", "Lauren Weber", manufacturing, MIT, reskilling, retraining, robotics, technology, "The Wall Street Journal", "Tooling U-SME", training