There has been a heightened interest in attracting millennials to manufacturing. Besides the need to attract young, digitally-savvy talent to the industry, baby boomers are starting to retire in masses. A recent manufacturing outlook roundtable, hosted by PLANT, revealed that in Canada, 25% of the manufacturing workforce will retire by 2030. As a result, the industry will be facing a labour shortage and overall skills gap – and it’s a global concern.
A report by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute reveals that the manufacturing skills gap is now anticipated to leave 2.1 million jobs unfilled by 2030. Part of the problem is the rise of new complex skills linked to the emergence of new technologies and digital transformation. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Future of Jobs report, there is a growing global demand for job roles such as Data Analysts and Scientists, AI and Machine Learning Specialists, Software and Application Developers and even Digital Transformation Specialists. For factory floor workers that operate in a connected ecosystem, hands-on skills need to be accompanied with digital skills, that evolve on an ongoing basis.
Manufacturers now need to find long-term solutions to close the skills gap and reduce the labour shortage. The answer may lie in providing a career growth path, closing the generational gap and even embracing a new approach to work.
Developing talent beyond the point of entry
While the manufacturing industry remains hungry for young talent, the reality is that the new entrants into the market still gravitate towards professional roles such as doctors, teachers, business managers or lawyers.
The attraction to certain professions has created a scenario in the US, where for the first time, the number of open jobs has been higher than the number of people looking for work. Employers are particularly challenged to fill blue-collar positions rather than professions that require a college education. In fact, some fast-food chains in the US have started offering financial incentives to encourage more applications for jobs.
Although a short-term financial incentive can attract talent to apply for a job interview, the reality is that manufacturing businesses need to incorporate long-term career growth prospects for entry-level employees. There needs to be an opportunity for employees to advance beyond that entry-level role. Ongoing training and upskilling initiatives therefore need to go hand-in-hand with your development program. General Motors had this in mind when they launched a Technical Learning University in 2017 for its trade workers and manufacturing engineers.
Close the generational gap
Training and development should not only begin and end with new employees. Statistics in the 2021 Advanced Manufacturing Outlook Survey show that 44% of businesses believe that decision-making at their company is in the hands of elders who are frightened of change. Meanwhile, 15% do not see the value in investing in new technologies at their age. Because digital transformation translates to competitive advantage, a cultural shift needs to take place in those businesses. Ongoing training initiatives can ensure all employees adapt to change successfully, all while safeguarding any technological investment because employees need to be in touch with technological evolution.
Embrace a flexible approach to work
Businesses have come to realize that the pandemic changed the world of work as we know it. As social distancing became the new normal, entire workforces needed to connect as well as collaborate remotely. Employers realized that remote work is possible. Today, many businesses are embracing a hybrid work structure, in fact, a recent survey by McKinsey indicated that 9 out of 10 organisations will be combining remote and on-site working.
For some manufacturers, this poses a particular challenge, especially for workers who need to be physically present on the factory floor. In order to meet the needs of the workforce of the future, a possible solution could be to introduce a four-day workweek or alternatively, more flexible work schedules.
Globally, the manufacturing sector remains the heart of most economies and is ever-evolving. Having a robust talent pool is vital for the sector’s survival. It is now up to businesses to attract new talent with ongoing training initiatives, flexible schedules, and next-generation technologies.