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Manufacturers Take the Initiative to Fill the Skills Gap

skills gap

The manufacturing industry faces an undeniably growing skills gap. To get an idea of just how big the problem is for the industry, consider a recent stat that eight in 10 manufacturing executives cite the skills gap as directly affecting their ability to keep up with customer demand, according to a survey from Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, an industry-related non-profit group. To further quantify these statistics, consider the industry is also sitting with the highest number of open positions in fifteen years, a number that’s been rising since 2009, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal.

Assessing the Issue

The definition of a “typical” factory worker also continues to change with the effects of technology, globalization and recession. These changes result in what some call “upskilling,” which creates a bias toward workers with more education. The notion, coined by Georgetown University’s Center of Education in the Workforce, finds manufacturers looking to fill middle-skill positions such as a maintenance technician with an individual possessing extensive technological skills. To obtain this new level of training, it’s necessary for individuals to extend their skill building through higher technical schooling beyond high school such junior college and/or university programming.

Locating the Holes

Highly skilled equipment is a primary reason why many manufacturers continue to have the ability to do more despite having fewer workers. Unfortunately, training on more-sophisticated equipment is not yet a priority in many skill-building programs, such as those advocated by government agencies. As a result, there’s the possibility that those who complete the program may still not have the level of training and education needed by most manufacturers.

Front-Line Solutions

The Labor Department estimates that for every one position there are an average of two unemployed manufacturing workers. Faced with such a problem, manufacturers know they must solve the skills gap sooner rather than later. As a result, a number of manufacturers now are opting to take matters into their own hands, offering apprenticeships, hosting field trips and creating partnerships designed to highlight the new, skilled opportunities in the manufacturing industry. For now these are mainly individual efforts, but time should tell if this is the way more in the industry should lean.

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