Short and long-term strategies to close the skills gap in manufacturing

February 23, 2022

It goes without saying that manufacturers are facing a significant labor problem. With hordes of talented workers quitting their jobs during the Great Resignation, an already dire situation is being made worse. The industry, in turn, is struggling to maintain pace with the evolving demands of modern manufacturing.

That's why it's more important than ever for manufacturing leaders to secure talent by any means possible. To help get started, here are a few short and long-term solutions.


Raise wages
Although not the most inventive option, raising wages is often an effective stop-gap solution, at least for a little while. Pay increases and sign-on bonuses are a good way to get workers in the door, but not a foolproof plan to keep them on board for the long haul.

In fact, according to research from Deloitte, 66% of manufacturers report that skilled workers are leaving their jobs for higher-paying positions at competing companies. Put simply, raises in pay are often enough to tip the scales for an employee, but not necessarily in your favor. Managers that beat competitors to the punch and offer greater wages just may be securing the future of their workforce – but only maybe.

Seasonal employees
Many manufacturers leverage seasonal workers during the busiest times of the year when demand is at its peak. With the labor shortage only rising, it's more important than ever for leaders to tap into their pool of temporary employees.

Hiring these workers is a great way to mitigate the skills gap in the short term, but can also be parlayed into an effective long-term strategy. Managers should pay special attention to seasonal employees and incentivize them to sign on for full-time positions. In doing so, you not only retain their labor but also hold onto their institutional knowledge, skills and expertise.


Diversify your workforce
Many businesses, including manufacturing, fail to see the value in disabled workers. In fact, there were over 877,400 disabled Americans looking for work in 2018, the latest year for which data is available. Despite physical or medical disabilities, many still contain the necessary skills to perform regular manufacturing jobs at a high level.

According to research from Accenture, disabled job seekers are just one portion of the 27.4 million "hidden workers" in the United States. This enormous pool of untapped talent – which includes people with few formal qualifications, gaps in employment, disadvantaged backgrounds and so on – represents an important opportunity for manufacturers to secure the future of their workforce. As a matter of fact, companies that hire hidden workers are 36% less likely to face skills shortages compared to companies that do not.

Start upskilling – it's what employees want
If you're struggling to find employees with the right skills, why not teach those skills to the workers you already have? After all, 80% of manufacturing employees have a desire to upskill in 2022, according to research from Censuswide and shared by The Manufacturer.

In other words, your workforce is eager to learn the skills you're searching for from other candidates. Managers should take advantage of this desire to learn and begin instructing their employees in new areas of the business. In doing so, you'll feed their hunger to grow professionally while also mitigating the gap in your company's most critical skills.