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How to Cope with the Growing Talent Shortage in Manufacturing

The talent shortage continues to grow, and the U.S. now will need to fill nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs in the coming decade, according to a recent report from Deloitte.

The good news is, many manufacturers are already playing a proactive role in securing talent for the future. However, they and others will need to widen their net, as experts say companies will need to look far and wide to fill their coming job needs. From changing the perception about the industry to recruiting in schools and attracting more women to the manufacturing workforce, here are a few ways manufacturers can overcome the growing shortage of talent.

1. Offer higher wages. Deloitte’s report “The skills gap in U.S. manufacturing, 2015 and beyond,” reveals that of the 3.5 million jobs that will need to be filled, more than half will be due to a skills gap. Because this has the potential to impact manufacturers’ ability to meet consumer demand, 80% of manufacturing executives reported they are willing to pay more than market rates in workforce areas where supply is limited.

While some companies may resort to offshoring jobs to find skilled workers at optimal cost, higher wages here at home will likely be a reality to attract talent. As more manufacturers rely on technology and digitization, it may eliminate some roles, but also will increase the need for advanced STEM workers, who will also demand higher wages.

2. Change the perception of manufacturing jobs for the millennial generation. Scott Stone, director of marketing for Cisco-Eagle, Inc., told that many young people view factory work as “dirty, dangerous and offering little job security.”

“The opportunities are there, but it’s up to manufacturers to get the word out about where and how students can use their background to make an impact in the industry.”

To make manufacturing more attractive to millennials, Stone said manufacturers need to better educate the public about the high-tech, high-income, and in-demand aspects of these jobs. He points to programs such as Manufacturing Day as an opportunity to inspire and recruit the next generation of manufacturing workers. “The opportunities are there, but it’s up to manufacturers to get the word out about where and how students can use their background (in technology, computing, etc.) to make an impact in the industry,” says Stone.

3. More involvement with schools. Manufacturers have long looked to schools as a way to grow talent, but those efforts are becoming more important than ever. Nearly all executives surveyed in the Deloitte report agree that internal employee training and development programs are the most effective skilled production worker development strategies.

Through the help of industry and state funding, more schools are enhancing their advanced manufacturing training programs. Pat Dean, director of recruiting for Advanced Technology Services in Peoria, Ill., told that companies should consider digital outreach, partnerships with schools, and even scholarships and work-study programs. “These contributions not only raise awareness and change attitudes, but also connect employers with the brightest, most talented and motivated students, creating a natural recruitment pipeline,” says Dean.

4. Attract more women to the industry. Another Deloitte report found that while women make up 47% of the workforce, they only represent 27% of the manufacturing labor force. The study noted that women represent a vast, untapped talent pool. Recruitment and retention initiatives that have the most impact include flexible work practices, mentoring programs, and identifying key leaders who can serve as role models for women in manufacturing.

Harley-Davidson has made news in recent years for its role in recruiting and hiring more women. An article in Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that 25% of the company’s workforce is comprised of females. Tony Macrito, Harley-Davidson manager of corporate media relations, said the company works with local and national professional women’s organizations, and attends career fairs and events specifically targeted to women.


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