The problem in the manufacturing labor market is not new. Labor demand in the U.S. manufacturing sector has steadily increased since bottoming out during Great Recession.
Earlier this year, when we took a deep-dive into CNC machinery careers, we discussed how a manufacturing skills gap undermines companies looking to fill jobs the industrial sector. We cited a study by the Manufacturing Institute and Delloite that forecasted 4.6 million new manufacturing jobs in the next 10 years, and more than half of those (2.4 million) going unfilled at the present rate.
One reason that so many manufacturing jobs are set to open up in coming years stems from an aging workforce. A 2016 study by the Society for Human Resources Management shows that more than 26 percent of manufacturing workers will be of retirement age in the next ten years. Replacing those workers—and their specialized skills and specific technical know-how—is problematic for many companies in the industrial sector.
In the near term, the manufacturing sector is looking at methods of attracting younger workers to its ranks. Taking a cue from the German apprenticeship model of education, manufacturers are ramping up partnerships with trade schools, community colleges, and high schools.
One example is Indiana-based Cummins Inc., and its Technical Education for Communities program (TEC). Cummins built TEC specifically to address the skills shortage that affects the power generation equipment manufacturing space where it does business. At 22 institutions worldwide, Cummins creates a labor pipeline by creating an educational framework by providing teaching resources, tools, and processes that help schools identify and supplement gaps in its existing offerings.
There is evidence to back the presence of such a perception gap. According to a 2017 study by the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, fewer than three out of 10 parents would encourage their children to pursue manufacturing as a career. IMA frames this as an outdated perception that manufacturing jobs carry a lower wage and fewer opportunities compared to those unlocked by a four-year college degree.
The reality is that skilled jobs in manufacturing pay competitively. According to figures reported by the National Association of Manufacturers, the average manufacturing worker in the United States earned $84,832 annually, including pay and benefits. The average worker in all nonfarm industries earned $66,847.
Leaders in the manufacturing space are taking on the PR challenge faced by the industry. Millennials, who want to work for a cause that they believe in, might feel compelled by this commercial by Caterpillar. In it, the company frames itself as a purveyor of a new, different, and better world. This is the scope of the “Let’s Do the Work” campaign.
Many of these new technologies work toward the deployment of an automated workforce.