Taking Stock of the Manufacturing Skills Gap

  • workforce insights
  • May 13, 2014

In a recent Randstad study, some 2,800 manufacturing and logistics professionals provided insight on the current state of the much-discussed skills gap. Over one-half of companies surveyed acknowledge the skills gap and nearly just as many report that the shortage of qualified talent has negatively impacted their business. As impressive as the statistics may be, employers do have options to proactively address the skills shortage and become an employer of choice. This report explores these options and the trends surrounding the current state of the skills gap.

framing the manufacturing skills gap

  • A highly skilled manufacturing workforce can greatly increase productivity, which as the ripple effect of improving delivery time and ultimately impacting corporate profitability. 
  • Shop floors are transforming new technology, making access to workers with technology-driven know-how increasingly important.
  • Retiring workers take their skills and knowledge with them, creating a void best filled by well-trained employees who can effectively step into new roles with minimal ramp-up time required.
  • The deficit of technology-savvy workers accounts for some 600,000 vacant manufacturing jobs, according to the National Association of Manufacturers. 
  • Well-trained high performers provide employers with a tangible competitive advantage, which is particularly important for those whose operations depend upon a workforce with hands-on experience.


skills and talent shortages

in summary

Take the skills shortage into your own hands. 
Manufacturers who proactively address current skills and education trends will be best positioned to attract and retain the most qualified and productive employees as those individuals enter and transition through the workforce. Strategies include: 

Foster partnerships and collaboration.
The job of developing and sustaining a well-trained and replenishable workforce can be too complex for a company to do in isolation. Some manufacturers have mitigated this pressure by joining forces with workforce development agencies, funding organizations, educational and trade groups, staffing experts and even other industry employers. By actively participating in external workforce development efforts, employers can help create and bolster their connection to a well-trained and qualified talent pool. 

Boost gender diversity.
Manufacturers with an eye on the future are trying to attract more women into their organizations. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up nearly 50 percent of the total U.S. workforce but represent just slightly more than 25 percent of manufacturing talent. Savvy companies will tailor their recruitment strategies to address workplace issues of particular importance to women, such as ensuring equal pay, promoting women to positions of leadership and supporting family-friendly work policies.

Provide transparency and training.
By clearly communicating the advancement process and proficiencies required to move up, managers provide their workforce with a transparent promotion path that rewards skills development and benefits both employers and employees. Companies that invest in ongoing employee training can expect to improve operational productivity and more reliably meet customer demands. Employers have many opportunities to proactively address the skills gap and consequently improve operations, ongoing customer satisfaction and bottom-line profitability. 

Focus on the shifts.
As the market improves, workers with less seniority or the least desirable shift times may search out other opportunities that offer better hours or employment situations. By focusing on the needs of workers on all shifts or providing additional training or incentives for less popular work times, an organization can boost retention of skilled workers throughout the shift cycle.