Like many industries, manufacturing was hit hard during the pandemic. Nearly overnight, government lockdowns took effect, supply chain challenges intensified and consumer demands shifted. But manufacturers proved resilient, and the industry has come a long way since then.

Manufacturing production levels are looking so good, in fact, that manufacturing leaders are broadly optimistic about the coming year. The number of manufacturing plant starts was up by 82 percent over the previous year, and the American Association of Manufacturers Q4 2021 quarterly outlook survey showed that optimism among manufacturers now stands at almost 87 percent.

Although these statistics are promising for the future of manufacturing, the industry’s biggest challenge — the looming skills shortage — still exists. According to a recent Deloitte study, manufacturers may see 2.1 million jobs go unfilled by 2030.

It’s crucial for businesses to take steps now to revamp their hiring practices to remain relevant in the years to come. Randstad understands these challenges. To help you better understand the post-pandemic job market and improve your hiring processes, we have compiled a list of the top hiring trends in manufacturing.

top in-demand manufacturing jobs

As production needs increase, so will the demand for skilled workers within the manufacturing industry. Some of the most sought-after manufacturing jobs include:

  • machine operators
  • production workers
  • forklift drivers 
  • quality control officers
  • production supervisors

leading manufacturing talent trends

As manufacturing employers prepare to rebuild their workforce in a post-pandemic job market, now is the time to reexamine your recruitment practices and strategies. Here's what you need to know.

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workers’ expectations have changed

Consumer demands aren’t the only thing that intensified during the pandemic — so have workers’ expectations, especially when it comes to remote work. During the pandemic, employers were forced to look for remote, or at least hybrid, work solutions for roles like production planning and HR that could be accomplished offsite. Now, as the effects of COVID-19 are starting to subside, segments of the manufacturing workforce that experienced remote work aren’t willing to go back to the way things were.

Fortunately, there definitely are numerous benefits of remote and hybrid work models.

While the benefits for employees are easy to see, the reality of making remote work a permanent option in the manufacturing industry may not seem possible. After all, the very nature of manufacturing is hands-on. But, when you view your workforce on a role-by-role basis, remote work for some employees may not be impossible.


1. conduct job assessments

Before you write remote work off completely, take the time to conduct a comprehensive job assessment. Carefully review each role within the company to determine which skills and duties can translate to remote work. For example, can one of the company’s specialized engineers handle some duties remotely, therefore allowing them to monitor multiple locations simultaneously?

2. develop real-time monitoring processes

Despite the rising demand from employees for remote work options, studies show that only 46 percent of manufacturers have remote monitoring capabilities in place. This type of technology is critical for remote work to be a possibility. Whether monitoring production, output or machine health, offsite workers must have access to real-time data in order to make informed decisions.

3. offer flexible scheduling

Today’s workers crave flexibility in the workplace. In fact, according to our own Employer Brand Research Global Report, workers rank a healthy work-life balance as the second most important driver when looking for new job opportunities. Employers must find ways to bring more flexibility into the workplace, especially for those roles where remote work options are not possible. For example, by using strategies such as compressed shifts and flexible shift options and making part-time jobs possible.

continuing demand for digital skills

While manufacturing has relied on digital technology for decades, the events of the last two years pushed many companies to significantly increase their investment in technology. In fact, when asked why manufacturers are in a hurry to advance the speed and scope of their digital technologies, SAP vice -president, George Kube, replied:

“It’s actually the COVID-19 crisis that is driving digitalization for us, because it fosters the need to be more virtual and to be more digital in everything that we do.”

As the demand for technology in the manufacturing industry continues to increase, so will the need for skilled workers. Unfortunately, the growing skills gap could negatively impact many manufacturers.

  • 2.1 million manufacturing jobs are at risk of going unfilled by 2030
  • even before the pandemic, a Deloitte study predicted the skills gap could have a negative economic impact of over $2.5 trillion in the United States alone
  • hiring manufacturing talent today is 36 percent more difficult than it was just a few years ago, which is partly due to the demand for digital skills


1. conduct a skills assessment

The first step to finding the skilled workers you need is to determine exactly what types of skill sets your company needs now and in the future. Take the time to conduct a comprehensive skills assessment to identify the exact skills needed for each job and to predict what skills your company will likely need in the years to come.

2. build a continuous talent pipeline

The most important step you can take to combat the growing skills shortage is to take proactive measures now. An HR partner can help you start building a talent pipeline for various roles within your company. Additionally, be sure to use strategies, such as social media marketing and employee referrals, to identify passive candidates who match your criteria.

3. offer competitive salary packages

According to our Randstad Employer Brand Research study, competitive compensation remains the top factor candidates consider when looking for a job. Make sure that your wage offerings align with industry standards. Otherwise, you will find it increasingly difficult to attract skilled workers as the labor shortage intensifies.

upskilling and reskilling is a necessity

Even before the pandemic hit, employers were struggling to find talent and 77 percent of U.S. manufacturers were concerned about the growing skills shortage. With an end to this skills shortage nowhere in sight and the job market becoming even more competitive, many employers realize that they can’t solely rely on their hire-for-skills strategies to meet their need for skilled workers.

Instead, these employers are shifting at least a portion of their efforts to upskilling and retraining their current workers. In fact, some companies are taking unprecedented steps to train their current workforce, such as Amazon’s $700 million investment in upskilling, and Microsoft’s commitment to upskilling 25 million workers.

While these companies may be taking the lead when it comes to upskilling and retraining, studies show that at least 70 percent of U.S. manufacturers already have a plan in place to increase their training options to prepare their current employers for the future of work.


1. improved onboarding processes

It’s crucial that your new hires have all the tools, resources and skills needed to be successful on the job. To make this happen, employee training should start from day one. If you don’t already have a structured onboarding process for new hires in place, now is the time to develop one. Additionally, be sure that all new hires have a clear understanding of various training and career development opportunities offered by your company.

2. clear career development plan

Many employees leave their jobs due to a lack of career development options. At a time when finding skilled workers is critical, it’s extremely important for your company to have a career development plan in place that enables your best employees to reach their full potential. This plan should be clearly visible and all workers should know what job training opportunities are available as well as what steps are necessary to start training. Having a plan in place can not only help you keep your most qualified workers, but it can also help you create a workforce with the skills your company needs.

3. reskilling opportunities

While upskilling is designed to help your employees move up the career ladder, reskilling focuses on horizontal training. Promotions aren’t typically the end result of retraining. Instead, retraining is used to help your current workers obtain the skills needed to remain relevant in the future. For example, providing employees with digital or forklift certification training will provide them with the skills they need to continue working on the plant floor as your company becomes more automated.

aging workforce

The aging workforce has been a long-time concern for many employers, especially those in the manufacturing industry who must find ways to still meet production demands with an ever-slimming labor pool. If your company hasn’t felt the effects of this aging workforce, it soon will.

Even more alarming is the World Economic Forum prediction that the population of seniors aged 60 and over will double in at least 12 global economies, including the United States.

Of course, manufacturers across the globe must take steps now to improve their employee hiring and retention strategies, but they should also leverage the capabilities of these highly skilled and experienced older workers before they hit retirement age.


1. horizontal job options

Keep in mind that not all your aging workers want to retire at a set age. However, some of them may not be able to meet the physical demands of their current role. Consider offering horizontal job options that may allow your high-performing aging employees to remain working for the company, but in a less physically demanding role. For example, you can consider training aging machine operators to operate machines that may be more complex but less physically demanding. This step will allow you to retain these workers’ skills and experience longer.

2. mentorships

Long-term employees often make the best mentors for new and younger workers. After all, they know more about the company and its accomplishments than most workers, and they have likely worked in multiple roles within the company. The reality is that you just can’t find this level of experience anywhere else. Be careful not to exploit the talents of your older workers. Instead, partner with them to provide a platform for them to share their skills and knowledge.

3. digital training

Don’t underestimate the abilities of your aging workers. With the right training, seniors can work long after the standard retirement age. When creating a training program, be sure to keep your aging workers in mind by making them part of the change and offering opportunities for them to learn the digital skills they need in today’s workplace.

health and safety compliance

As COVID-19 hit and businesses throughout the world shut down, many in the manufacturing industry remained resilient to keeping production output up to par with consumer demands. Suddenly, manufacturing workers were deemed essential workers and faced extraordinary health and safety concerns to keep production going.

While the effects of the global pandemic are subsiding, these laborers haven’t forgotten the hazardous work conditions they faced. Additionally, their idea of what a safe work environment looks like has dramatically changed. If manufacturers want to keep filling open positions, they must create a workplace environment that focuses on health and safety. According to a recent study, 61 percent of U.S. workers said that a focus on their well-being at work was “very important,” and that includes issues of health and safety.

It’s crucial for your company to match these employee expectations by creating a safe and healthy work environment in a post-pandemic market.


1. safety training

Training is one of the most important steps to creating a safe workplace setting, especially in a post-pandemic environment. Workers should not only be trained in various pandemic-related safety precaution measures, such as appropriate hand-washing techniques and social-distancing requirements, but also be provided with information as to why these measures work at protecting the workforce as a whole. It’s critical that leaders within the company, including floor managers and supervisors, abide by all new safety measures. If the workers can see leadership taking these safety measures seriously, they are more likely to accept these additional tasks.

2. transparency

Putting safety protocols in place is useless if you’re not sharing these efforts with the workers. Regular meetings and newsletters can keep workers up to date on all new governmental regulations and let them know what steps the company has taken to comply with the new rules. Keeping your employees informed can go a long way in reducing workplace anxiety in regard to COVID-19 and to give employees confidence in your ability to create a safe space for them to work.

3. flex work options

While flexible work scheduling can be quite challenging in the manufacturing industry, it will likely be a necessity for at least the near future. In order to create a safe work environment, employers must be prepared for workers to take time off due to illness or even family-life issues related to COVID-19. It’s best to take steps now, such as cross-training, to prepare for these increased disruptions.

Find these trends and solutions helpful for your workforce concerns? We've compiled a recap of these manufacturing talent trends, so you can keep them on hand for quick reference as you navigate the uncertainties of a post-pandemic market.