As of right now, 322,000 manufacturing vacancies exist. Manufacturing jobs are around and employers are ready to hire. How could there be a disconnect in hiring?
In the late 1970s, manufacturing was booming with over 19 million jobs. Since then, industry jobs have been on the decline. Although a few peaks were optimistic flickers of hope, fewer than 13 million workers are employed in factory jobs. Technological and global shifts are affecting those with the lesser levels of skill, unfortunately. Despite the deals and policies that can be made to bring back a few thousand jobs, it just won’t be enough. The only solution? Boosting the workforce with technology. Workers and technology should not be an either-or, instead it should be a partnership.
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, claims that the amount of skill is part of why workers elsewhere are producing American products. “The U.S., over time, began to stop having as many vocational kind of skills,” Cook explained. In the 11 years between now and 2005, employment in the manufacturing sector dropped 14%. Despite some saying the industry may not have a true skills gap, the problem with employment numbers is evident. Reasons for this decline can be attributed to turnover, hiring time, and available supply. Believe it or not, during this decline in employment, jobs went from 303,000 to 346,000 while the number of people hired dropped from 369,000 to 272,000.
While manufacturers are willing to offer extra money for workers to come to them, the skill levels aren’t there. But wait, there’s more: manufacturing jobs just aren’t as hot. Stigmas exist and not many parents are choosing to encourage a career in the industry for their children. Back when it was a booming industry in the 1970s, children were highly encouraged to head to the factories. If a glimmer of that is to return, things must change.
To maintain the existence of jobs and keep those jobs here, the workforce must be encouraged to upgrade their skills in the STEM fields with training in math, science and computing. For the younger generations, while paid apprenticeships could be an advantage for companies, it must go above and beyond. Recruiters have to get creative. Word of mouth is powerful and some manufacturers have already begun using ambassadors to offer anecdotal proof that manufacturing is a great career choice. Manufacturing Day (aka MFG Day) encourages manufacturers to open minds and open doors, which has experienced positive feedback from participants. Companies must also use available technologies for these tech-savvy potential employees. This includes virtual reality, videos, and mobile devices. The image of manufacturing as it was back in the “olden days” needs to be cleaned up. It isn’t dirty and dangerous anymore. It is filled with coding, cool cars, and making cutting-edge medicines, to name a few of modern manufacturing’s greatest contributions.
“What millennials don’t realize is that modern manufacturing is full of cutting-edge technology,” says Jennifer McNelly, executive director of the Manufacturing Institute.
Manufacturing has always been about innovation and creating something amazing. It isn’t your grandfather’s factory, it’s not even your father’s! This new industry is actually an opportunity to bring ideas to life and mold the world around us. No matter the type of sectors within manufacturing, every sector is experiencing change. Remember that the possibilities are endless. Using the tools that are improving the manufacturing process are also valuable tools in improving the recruiting process.