Manufacturing, a major driver of economic growth in the U.S. that generated more than 11% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017; showing its strength, but manufacturers still struggle to fill job vacancies. Recruitment and staffing agency Aerotek conducted a survey, “Help Wanted: The Manufacturing Hiring Dilemma,” which looks at current trends in manufacturing and the challenges in hiring skilled labor.

One challenge is a shallow labor pool thinning further as industries outside of manufacturing – but that compete for the same talent – are offering higher wages. Also, the growing role of automation in advanced manufacturing has employers looking for employees with technical skill sets and experience in:

  • Mechanical, electrical engineering
  • Computerized systems
  • Machine programming
  • Manufacturing blueprints
  • Automated systems
  • Hydraulic, pneumatic, electrical systems

With the global medical technology market forecast to reach close to $600 billion by 2024 (see cover story, pg. 22), market demand is increasing the need for manufacturing talent. While the survey looks at a range of manufacturing sectors and recruiting challenges, it identifies a talent pipeline that will be crucial to filling job vacancies in manufacturing: women, military veterans, and future generations.

According to a Deloitte study on females in manufacturing, women totaled about 47% of the U.S. labor force in 2016 yet only 29% of the manufacturing workforce; but that is changing. In 2015 only 24% of women were ready to encourage their daughter or female family member to pursue a career in manufacturing; in 2017 it was up to 47%.

Women who think the school system encourages female students to pursue a career in manufacturing more than doubled from 12% in 2015 to 29% in 2017.

With 20,000 service members transitioning out of the military each year, Dave Majerowicz, Aerotek’s director of business development and an Air Force veteran says that former military members are an attractive pool of candidates because of shared characteristics such as being used to working in a team environment, knowing they must rely on each other, and realizing everyone must play a part.

Increasing young people’s exposure to real-world manufacturing can help develop the next generation of workers. A Deloitte/Manufacturing Institute survey found that after attending MFG DAY, 84% were more convinced that manufacturing provided interesting and rewarding careers and 64% were more motivated to pursue a career in manufacturing. A survey from American Staffing Association Workforce Monitor found that experiential learning plays a large part in attracting students to manufacturing; 62% of Americans agree that apprenticeships and vocational opportunities make people more employable.

Manufacturers are used to hard-nosed competition, investing in people and equipment to produce the highest-quality parts at the lowest possible price. So, duking it out over attracting the future generation of employees is just another arena. What is your company doing to recruit new people and ensure they have the advanced skills required?

Elizabeth Engler Modic, Editor
emodic@gie.net