According to a new study by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute (MI), the manufacturing skills gap in the U.S. could result in 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030. The cost of these vacant jobs could total $1 trillion in 2030 alone. This creates a concerning picture of the manufacturing labor shortage.
The study also shows that approximately 1.4 million U.S. manufacturing jobs were lost during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. This set back the manufacturing labor force for more than a decade. Although the industry has recovered 63% of the jobs, it still is urgently seeking workers.
The manufacturers involved in the survey reported that finding qualified candidates is 36% harder now than it was in 2018. The executives reported that even filling higher-paying entry-level production roles is difficult, not to mention hiring and retaining employees for specialized roles. Plus, 77% of manufacturers believe they will have ongoing challenges in sourcing and retaining employees beyond 2021.
Reasons for the Manufacturing Labor Shortage
According to the survey, 38% of respondents say that younger workers have expectations other than manufacturing for jobs and careers. Also, 36% of respondents cite a lack of interest in the industry, and 34% mentioned many roles previously being filled by baby boomers who retired.
- Carolyn Lee, Executive Director of the MI, shared that some misconceptions about the manufacturing industry contribute to younger workers’ lack of interest in the industry. Many recent college graduates believe that manufacturing is an industry for workers without more than a high school diploma or GED. However, there are manufacturing jobs that require college degrees, including doctorates.
- The survey also showed that women and younger workers prioritize work-life balance but do not view manufacturing as an industry with much flexibility. This was especially apparent when a significant number of women left the manufacturing industry to care for their children when schools and child care centers closed down during the early stages of COVID-19.
Steps to Fill More Manufacturing Jobs
Much action is being taken to decrease the substantial number of vacancies in the manufacturing industry.
- The MI and National Association of Manufacturers teamed up to launch Creators Wanted, a virtual event that shows the opportunities to work in manufacturing.
- The MI’s STEP Women’s Initiative was launched to recruit and retain more women in manufacturing through research, mentorship, recognition, and leadership.
- Employers are working to clarify the career opportunities they offer and what it takes to move up in the organization. This may include participation in upskilling, mentoring, and professional development.
- Many companies will begin offering nontraditional work hours that better fit workers’ schedules.
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