How Technological Advancements in Manufacturing are Affecting the Labor Shortage

Like many other industries, the manufacturing sector is currently experiencing a talent shortage. In fact, the industry will have a shortage of an estimated six million employees by 2030. There are many contributing factors at play, some more temporary than others.

One main key contributing to this is the technological advancement in the field. Technology is evolving and changing faster than ever before and its effect on manufacturing is stark. As more advancements arise, the necessary skillsets in the industry change, which leads to a skills gap. 

So, let’s take a closer look at this phenomenon and the ways stakeholders can respond to it.

The Technology Factor

Many forms of technology affect the way manufacturers operate. Here are just a few of the advancements we’ve seen recently:

  • Cloud storage for system data
  • “Invisible seams” created by diode lasers
  • Efficient 3D printing that can perform on a large scale
  • Nanomanufacturing, which can perform at a molecular or atomic level
  • IoT, or the Internet of Things, which allows for internet connectivity between “smart” devices.

Whether they are using this technology to perform their duties or producing the equipment used for these functions, manufacturing professionals need to have some level of understanding of these advances in order to succeed. Therein lies a challenge for the industry.

The Skills Gap

In 2019, under 1,000 students graduated with manufacturing engineering degrees in the United States. Though this number is growing, it is not increasing enough to make up for the shortage of talent in the industry. 

Even if colleges, universities, and trade schools were producing enough skilled candidates to fill most of the open positions, the rate of technological advancement in manufacturing could make some of their knowledge and training obsolete in a matter of years. 

The average age of an employee in this industry is about 43 and climbing. So, many of the people working in manufacturing have not been in school or training for many years. Even though they are highly experienced and talented, they may have skills gaps of their own. Simultaneously, this rising average age means that we aren’t far off from many skilled, seasoned professionals reaching retirement. 

Manufacturing leadership is now left with a problem to solve: How do you ensure that the talented workforce you have does not fall behind, while you also bring in enough new talent to combat the labor shortage?

Potential Solutions

Upskilling and continued learning are incredibly important to maintaining a top-tier workforce. This will both keep your employees up-to-date on the biggest advancements and newest strategies in your field, and increase their engagement and job satisfaction. In fact, upskilling has shown to increase both morale and employee retention, which are vital when experiencing a labor shortage.  

Look into developing a continued training program internally or explore options to encourage employees to seek classes relevant to their positions. Provide finding and support for your employees to continue their education. You’ll see the investment pay dividends as time goes on.

As for bringing in new professionals, this continued training program, as well as other benefits like flexibility, will help you to attract candidates. If you’d like to discuss more methods of acquiring top talent, you can reach out to one of our expert consultants today.

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