Professional labor researchers and employers point to many factors contributing to the shortage of skilled workers in the United States.
Here are three factors that have led to an apparent shortage of skilled labor in the United States in manufacturing
- The 2008 recession
The Great Recession of 2008 had a severe effect on the availability of skilled workers across all industries. However, it was especially challenging for those companies involved in the manufacturing sector.
Manufacturing took a blow
Manufacturing was hit hard by the 2008 recession. As a result, the US labor force lost nearly 1.4 million jobs related to productive activities between 2007 and 2014. As a result, manufacturing experienced a sharp decline in 2007. It was followed by a slow recovery which continues to this day.
Since 2014, manufacturing has increased, and employment options are plentiful. There are over 500,000 skilled labor job openings in manufacturing at present. However, employers are unable to fill these gaps due to a shortage of skilled labor in manufacturing.
The 2008 recession caused the manufacturing and commercial construction industries to decline rapidly. Companies went under and laid off hundreds of thousands of skilled workers. Even as these two industries recover, there is still the persistence of a shortage of skilled workers in the United States.
- Retirement rates vs. employment rates have created s shortage of skilled workers in the United States
A second reason for the current manufacturing labor shortage is the growing disparity between the number of skilled tradespeople retiring and those with comparable skills entering the workforce to replace them.
The United States Census Bureau estimates that nearly a quarter of the manufacturing workforce is age 55 and older. As baby boomers age and retire, there are not enough young people starting careers in the trades to fill the position that the previous generation has left vacant. This shortage of skilled labor in the United States itself is due to several factors:
- Priorities in education
- Misunderstanding of positions in manufacturing
- Lack of adequate internal training
- Let’s take a look at these factors in more depth.
- Priorities in education
On a first level, the public school system is failing to recognize and address the shortage of skilled manufacturing workers. Instead, skilled manufacturing trades have taken a back seat to emphasize college and university learning.
Skilled production labor is needed in today’s workplace and offers a valuable and potentially lucrative career alternative to the traditional university route. However, the education system pushes high school students toward a four-year degree instead of providing vocational and manufacturing-related business learning opportunities.
Bringing back skilled trade classes in high schools can help train younger Americans to take over the business jobs of retiring Baby Boomers.
Misunderstanding of the Manufacturing Trades
Leveraging this point, many people misunderstand or carry negative stereotypes about work in the manufacturing sector. Here are three of the most commonly held stereotypes followed by the truth:
Stereotype #1: All skilled workers are men.
Truth #1: Anyone, regardless of sex or gender, can become a skilled manufacturing worker. Men may have historically dominated the skilled trades, but the same jobs and opportunities are available to women. Many have realized this fact. This can be verified by the fact number of women in the industry is increasing. In order to grow the labor force to address the problem of the lack of skilled workers in the United States, the industry must make an effort to market its positions to both male and female audiences.
Stereotype #2: Skilled workers are not educated or intelligent individuals.
Truth #2: Skilled workers may not have a 4-year college degree, but they must complete rigorous coursework, apprenticeships, and training programs. Skilled workers have the word “skilled” in their name because they possess highly specific knowledge and a deep understanding of their line of work.
Stereotype #3: Skilled workers don’t make a lot of money.
Truth #3: The manufacturing sector pays its skilled workers very well. Most skilled manufacturing workers start out earning more than $20 an hour. As they gain more skills and experience, their wages can grow exponentially. With a continuing shortage of skilled labor in the United States, wages are rising significantly to incentivize workers. In some trades manufacturing workers earn base salaries of more than $100,000 a year.
Lack of adequate internal training
Finally, the major manufacturing industries in the United States have generally moved to reduce internal training programs and apprenticeships that would enable them to bridge the skills gap. Eliminating training and apprenticeships might save companies money in the short term, but it’s costly to inhibit long-term production and growth. Cutting training and apprenticeship is a shortsighted move.
Like those used for CNC machining, equipment and machines are becoming more and more advanced. However, not many current and future employees receive the proper training to maintain, fix and utilize this equipment. Employers could encourage younger, less experienced men and women to take on new roles by offering apprenticeships or job-specific training. This would help alleviate some of the effects of the shortage of skilled workers in the United States.
As an employer of skilled labor, a company cannot control rates of worker retirement or employment or other factors. However, what they can control and do is prioritize their employees’ education, training, and rates of pay.
- Failure to adopt new hiring practices
An inability to make changes is the biggest obstacle preventing companies that require highly-trained workers from overcoming the shortage of skilled workers in the United States in the manufacturing sector. More specifically, many companies suffer due to the failure to adopt new hiring practices.
This article uses phrases like “apparent shortage of skilled workers” and “apparent shortage of skilled labor in manufacturing.” This is because it may be a fact that the labor shortage in the sector may not be as severe as employers think. Skilled workers may, in many instances, be available. However, these workers are not identified because employers are not adapting their hiring practices to meet their employment needs.
Companies might think of using a staffing agency to help them recruit and hire skilled workers.
Approaching skilled labor challenges in this manner may be alien to many companies, but it may also be the solution they should look to meet their staffing needs quickly and efficiently.
Professional labor recruitment agencies can help manufacturers to take control and grow their businesses by creating more security in the staffing process. They can present the required pool of qualified candidates with specific skill sets that a trained human resources specialist has vetted. Labor recruiters make sure the candidates they recommend for interviews fit their clients’ needs and can provide the most value.
Taking the measures outlined in this text can help employers to overcome the challenge of a lack of skilled workers in the United States.
By getting the quality talent that manufacturers need when they need it, companies can:
- reduce risk
- Take on new projects
- meet deadlines
- Retain top talent
- reduce attrition due to work burnout
Overall, using a professional recruitment firm to overcome the shortage of skilled workers in the United States benefits manufacturing companies’ bottom lines by providing qualified workers when they are needed. Additionally, these skilled workers can ensure that companies can successfully address their long-term needs.