From the approaching “silver tsunami” of Baby Boomer retirements to the inherent challenge of attracting Millennials to manufacturing jobs, how will we address the widening skills gap in our industry?

It’s a question with which manufacturing decision makers across the country and around the globe are struggling. Many businesses rely on long-time employees to teach newer employees the processes and best practices necessary to succeed within the company and within the industry, but a combination of a huge wave of retirements and a transient younger workforce is challenging the efficacy of this model.

  • According to the AARP, 10,000 Baby Boomers are reaching retirement age each day
  • The median age within the manufacturing industry is over 44 years old, and nearly 25 percent of the manufacturing workforce is over the age of 55, based on the latest BLS stats
  • 84% of manufacturing executives agree there is already a talent shortage in U.S. manufacturing, and the 2.7 million workers exiting the industry over the next 10 years will only exacerbate that, as pointed out by Deloitte’s vice chairman in a Reliable Plant magazine article
  • Millennials are anticipated to comprise half the global workforce by 2020, according to research by PWC, yet they are also the most likely generation to switch jobs, based on Gallup’s findings
  • Millennials rated manufacturing as their least preferred career destination, according to Deloitte’s 2018 Skills Gap in Manufacturing Study

With 2 million manufacturing jobs expected to go unfilled due to a skills gap in the next decade, something needs to change. The problem of the manufacturing skills gap is a substantial one that will require solutions far beyond what any individual company can manage, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do about this ominous trend.

Double Down on Training to Stay Ahead

Workers coming into the manufacturing industry will not always have the experience needed to thrive in your company on Day One, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be effectively taught to perform well. 94% of manufacturing executives state that “internal training and development programs are among the most effective skilled production workforce development strategies”, and if you take a smart approach to knowledge capture, documentation, and training program development now, you will be well positioned to succeed when others struggle later.

Here’s where you should begin.

  1. Conduct a skills gap analysis. Before you can take an active role in preparing your future employees for success, you need to establish a baseline to find out where gaps exist today. Once you have identified those gaps, you can begin creating standardized, repeatable training programs designed to bridge them.
  2. Create SOPs and work instructions. While you have seasoned employees still available to pass on what they know, now is the time to begin a knowledge capture process. Many businesses are guilty of operating without writing down the key processes and procedures that drive their business every day, but this hurdle can be overcome easily enough with help from an expert.
  3. Develop a training strategy that suits your needs. Once you know where knowledge and skill gaps exist and you’ve begun compiling resources to help address those challenges, the next step is to create training programs for current and future employees. Consider how competency-based training, on-the-job training programs, custom job aids, and classroom/online/blended learning approaches can be harnessed to create standardized training programs.

Feel Intimidated? That’s Alright.

Whatever approach you choose to training program development, make sure your processes are repeatable. As the statistics clearly illustrate, the manufacturing skills gap is not only a “now” problem, but a hurdle that will require consistent attention if it is to be successfully cleared in the years that come. Start addressing your skills-related challenges now, but be sure you incorporate adequate standardization to succeed long term as a business.

For more information on training development to address manufacturing skills gaps, give us a call at 330.650.4777. We’re happy to talk through what approach makes sense for you.