The Skills Gap: Manufacturing’s Greatest Challenge

Posted By: Jeannine Kunz, Chief Workforce Development Officer, SME on September 11, 2018

This week, more than 115,000 manufacturers will gather in Chicago for IMTS to get ideas and find answers to their manufacturing challenges. They will see new technology demonstrated, talk to technical experts and find inspiration.

The Skills Gap: Manufacturing’s Greatest Challenge

There’s a lot of talk about ways to cut costs, boost quality and productivity, keep up with new technology, improve plant operations and find new business. But when you dig deeper, it really comes down to building a skilled workforce. Manufacturing’s greatest challenge continues to be the skills gap.

Today, here at IMTS, Tooling U-SME released our Industry Pulse: 2018 Manufacturing Workforce Report. The report shows that many manufacturers are still not effectively addressing the threats created by retirements, a decreased talent pipeline and the need for new, advanced technology skills. Summarizing findings from Tooling U-SME’s Industry Pulse: 2018 Manufacturing Workforce Study, the report reveals that employers are feeling the impact of the workforce shortage, yet only two out of five companies train people to develop the right skills.

A recent Wall Street Journal article claimed that the economy appears poised to expand this year at the fastest clip since the recession ended in 2009. This is great news for the manufacturing industry, but only if we’re prepared to meet this growth with a skilled workforce ready to meet new demands.

The results of the Industry Pulse: 2018 Manufacturing Workforce Report clearly reveal that many manufacturers are not prepared. The lowest unemployment rate in years, along with high turnover and looming retirements, are adding extreme pressure to the workforce. Three of the top challenges companies face in the next three years revolve around developing a skilled workforce. Yet, three-quarters of the study respondents say their company does not have a talent development strategy for manufacturing employees.

Manufacturers can’t afford to ignore the skills gap any longer.

By focusing now on top priorities such as finding skilled new hires, upskilling the incumbent workforce, and retaining employees, companies will be better positioned for productivity and profitability in an expanding economy.

Many workforce development actions are within employers’ control, such as retaining new hires and making positions appealing to candidates. Solid onboarding and job qualification programs, robust blended learning and development programs, and clearly defined career pathways with skills compensation plans all contribute to a high-performance workforce.

Tooling U-SME has identified five best practices for building a high-performance workforce:

  1. Identify the business objectives.
  2. Define performance-based competency models.
  3. Align learning solutions to develop knowledge and skills.
  4. Structure your on-the-job training (OJT) program.
  5. Develop and execute a measurable impact study.

Read the entire report here.

We’re here to help you tackle your organization’s workforce challenges head-on or identify some projects to get you started in the right direction.

To read more about the results of our Industry Pulse: 2018 Manufacturing Workforce Study, click on the stories below:

Manufacturers Drive Productivity with a Skilled Workforce (July 31, 2018)
New Technology Requires Advanced Workforce Training (Aug 9, 2018)
Workforce Study: Formalized Training Reduces Scrap and Rework (Aug 14, 2018)
Proper Training a Must for Employee Safety (Aug 21, 2018)

Tags: "high-performance workforce", IMTS, "manufacturing skills gap", productivity, "Tooling U-SME", "workforce development"