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Filling the Talent Shortfall

Manufacturers have been struggling for years to fill positions at every tier, finding that applicants' skills and education are just not where they need to be. The Manufacturing Institute, in partnership with Deloitte, conducted studies to analyze the talent shortfall and offer solutions to bridge the gap. 82% of manufacturers in the study reported a shortage of skilled workers that effected their operations, and this trend has no signs of slowing. If current trends continue, 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will be up for grabs in the next decade, but 2 million will be vacant.


In an attempt to find the root of the problem, a separate study by the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte studied public opinions of manufacturing jobs. While 90% of respondents said domestic manufacturing was an important asset to America's economy, only 37% said they would encourage their child to pursue a career in manufacturing. These numbers point to misconception about manufacturing careers, which are driving skilled engineers into other fields.


"Dumb, dirty, dangerous and disappearing” sums up the perceptual problems driving talented applicants away from manufacturing. As Baby Boomers retire, Millennials are poised to take their place, but only if they are properly motivated and trained. Changing the perception and changing recruitment and training strategies are part of a long-term strategy to fill the talent gap.



Young Millennials, driven by a need for meaningful, important work, want to be a part of an organization, not a cog in a machine. Fulfilling this expectation includes a change in the way manufacturing workers are treated and regarded, as well as a way the business is represented. Millennials seek to be treated as professionals and, as manufacturing work demands higher levels of education and expertise, this perceptual change is accurate. The values and mission of the company are also important. While some larger companies have caught on to this attitude shift, many smaller, local businesses have not—though they may have a more authentic position to work from. Emphasizing the local business's role as a community anchor and domestic economic stronghold can make the difference to prospective workers.



The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte also examined work-based learning programs in regard to attracting new talent. 72% of respondents reported that apprenticeships and work-based learning programs would increase their interest in manufacturing. Commercial powerhouses across the U.S. have implemented their own work-study and apprenticeship programs, including  Alcoa, Dow Chemical Company and Siemens USA. The companies have compiled their experiences in the Employer's Playbook for Building an Apprenticeship program. ArcelorMittal has been using its Steelworker for the Future program since 2007 to help fill the over 200 electrical and mechanical workers they were losing each year.


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