Friday, February 21, 2014

Why the Talent Shortage in U.S. Manufacturing is Happening

Manufacturing jobs in the United States have changed dramatically over the past decade, requiring employees with higher, more technologically advanced skills. An unfortunate side-effect is that these improvements in the manufacturing world have led to a shortage of qualified employees throughout the country. In fact, a recent report by the Manufacturing Institute reveals that as many as 600,000 manufacturing job openings in the United States remain vacant.

Job Perception

One reason that manufacturing openings are going unfilled is that many job seekers have the wrong perception of the industry. People often think of manufacturing jobs as dark, dirty and low-paying positions. However, with today’s technology, many manufacturing companies offer clean, healthy environments for high-skilled workers. Today, most manufacturing jobs require employees to manage sophisticated equipment, and the salaries offered to these workers reflect the expertise necessary to do so. In some industries, experienced technicians earn between $50,000 and $100,000 per year.

Aging Workforce

Almost 80 percent of manufacturing jobs are held by people between the ages of 45 and 65, according to a report by As many as one-third of them are planning to retire in the next few years. Many experts believe this will cause a major problem for manufacturing companies. As noted above, the younger generation rarely considers manufacturing jobs as a career, or thinks that working in the industry is only for people with few skills. Therefore, it is critical that the manufacturing industry change the perception of manufacturing jobs in order to build the pipeline of future workers.

Lack of Interest in Manufacturing as a Career Choice

The problem may go deeper than simply a manufacturing perception problem. Young people have fewer role models in manufacturing, long considered manual labor. Most schools do not portray manufacturing as a viable career choice, focusing more on preparing students for college than for a trade. This despite numerous changes occurring in manufacturing including 3-D printing and other additive manufacturing concepts, advanced manufacturing, robotics and other innovations that are incorporating the concepts of ‘on-demand’ to the design and development of new products. In conjunction with MEP, MMTC and other organizations participate in the annual Manufacturing Day in October that highlights these and other fascinating changes taking place in manufacturing. 

 Addressing the Problem

There are people and organizations taking steps to dispel the myths about manufacturing jobs. Some are stepping up recruiting efforts by offering apprenticeships or internships to high school and college students. Some are focusing on community colleges and technical schools in an effort to obtain the qualified workers they need for the sophisticated equipment used on the line. In addition, manufacturing companies have begun promoting the fact that employment in manufacturing is not limited to the factory floor. The ThomasNet report claims that many jobs in the industry are in sales and production management.

There is no question that there is a shortage of skilled, qualified employees for today’s manufacturing jobs. The answer lies in better promotion of the industry at the high school and college level, as well as in changing the perception that manufacturing jobs are undesirable.

Since 1991, MMTC has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at

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