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Posted on : Thursday 2nd July 2020 03:31 PM

Preparing for Future Manufacturing Talent Shortages

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When operations are overhauled at a manufacturing plant or depot, or a company begins to utilize new types of technology or equipment, jobs are almost always lost. The aim itself is likely to be to minimize manpower costs—or it may be to improve quality, speed or to align with other companies in the supply chain. If the goal is upgrading and strengthening, will the existing workforce be efficient at keeping up with the pace of change — or will some workers have to be replaced by individuals with better skills? Even in the case of significant workforce reductions, does that mean the complete workforce has to go? Or can some workers be retrained to be valuable contributors in the newly re-configured operation or other parts of the organization?


Whatever the reason may be, it’s better to keep some employees. With a recent warning from the Deloitte Institute that 2.4 million manufacturing jobs may go unfilled between now and 2028 because of the nation’s skills gap — plus a further 2.69 million jobs to be vacated by retirees and another 1.96 million openings caused by industry growth — companies should invest more resources into ongoing training for their current employees, instead of planning to replace them from an already scarce pool of talent.


Robotics may cut down the need for assembly line workers, but the manufacturing process still needs people to maintain and diagnose that equipment and examine the products for quality assurance. Workers on the assembly line, whose previous duties included reading technical drawings and instructions and calibrating machinery, can now be prepared for other essential job duties including those performed by instrument technicians/machine operators, CAD draftsmen, CNC operators, and quality control inspectors.


Strong educational partners understand specific industries and individual businesses and will establish programs with the support of industry advisory committees. At the Community College of Allegheny County, we have found this model invaluable. In creating a forum for industry leaders to share information and analysis, we have been able to help companies identify trends and decide their precise workforce needs. To develop on-point curricula, companies and educators must work together.


The educator’s training facilities are one other crucial consideration when choosing a program. Trainings can not be conducted in classrooms alone. Students need innovative, state-of-the-art labs that replicate the types of issues they will face every day on the job and where they can learn to resolve complex technical problems.


Lastly, it is essential that both employers and educational partners are dedicated to giving and accepting continual feedback on their training programs and adjusting the program and any aspect of the curriculum when workplace conditions or requirements demand it.


The best time to prepare for future talent shortages is now. With an already small talent pool from which to recruit and hire—an issue that will only deteriorate with time as millions of manufacturing jobs are projected to go empty — manufacturing companies ought to help their existing workforce employees adapt, not let them go. When given access to continual training, incumbent workers have proven adept at seamlessly integrating new technologies and other industrial innovations into their workplaces, which in turn has permitted the companies they work for to adapt to emerging trends in the global marketplace without missing a beat.


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