By Jeff Moad
In recent weeks, researchers and experts have taken to arguing over just how many manufacturing jobs are going unfilled in the United States due to a shortage of qualified candidates. Some claim the number is 600,000, while , and that the skills gap is geographically isolated, seriously impacting only manufacturers in a few domestic locations.
It’s difficult to know who’s right in this battle of skills-gap studies. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. In my opinion, the three things that really matter are:
- Manufacturers from all parts of the country and all vertical markets are struggling to find candidates with the right skills to fill critical engineering and skilled plant floor positions. We continue to hear from many members of the Manufacturing Leadership Council that job applicants—including recent college graduates— that are available. Manufacturing employers are often forced either to hire less-than-qualified candidates with the hope that they can get up to speed quickly, or to wait indefinitely for qualified people to show up.
- The situation is only going to get worse. A growing wave of baby boomer retirements is going to leave many more unfilled manufacturing jobs in its wake. At the same time, more manufacturing environments are demanding workers with a new mix of high-tech and collaborative skills, skills that many current manufacturing workers do not possess.
- The winners will be those manufacturers that put in place a comprehensive skills-development program that is linked to company strategy and that attracts a steady stream of the best and brightest job candidates.