Skip to Content

Here’s what a manufacturing skills gap of more than 2 million people will look like

Unless manufacturers start exploring new strategies, they won’t be able to find enough people qualified to work in their specialized factories.
November 15, 2018
Jens Tärning from the Noun Project

There will be 4.6 million new manufacturing jobs in the US to fill between 2018 and 2028, according to a new report out yesterday from Deloitte.

The gap (see chart above)

Over half of the newly created jobs—2.4 million—are predicted to go empty.

The report attributes this to three main things:

  • An increase in the skill level required for manufacturing jobs as they make more use of automation.
  • A loss of many experienced workers as baby boomers leave the workforce.
  • A negative perception of the manufacturing industry by both students and their parents.

Where are the new jobs coming from?

Jens Tärning from the Noun Project

Much of the manufacturing workforce is aging. More than 2.6 million baby boomers working in the industry are expected to retire over the next 10 years.

The rest of the new jobs—about 2 million—will come from natural growth. As the US expands its specialized manufacturing industry, more people will be needed to support the development.

That sounds like good news, but the problem is there aren’t enough workers ready to take on these new roles.

The problem is already here

All these things are already making it harder to recruit workers. In 2015 it took an average of 70 days to find someone to fill a skilled manufacturing job. That’s creeping up.

Guilherme Furtado from the Noun Project

That means it now takes an average of 93 days to fill these roles, a figure that’s only anticipated to grow in the next decade.

Closing the gap

For the short term, the authors outlined three possible solutions to the shortage of potential employees:

For the long term, the report recommends that companies investigate a few different paths:

  • Finding ways to continue tapping into the knowledge of retired workers, hiring them for short-term projects after they’ve left and keeping them accessible to answer questions.
  • Using automation to complete more tasks in the factory.
  • Exploring new models of sourcing talent, such as finding it through gig platforms.
  • Establishing partnerships with governments, universities, and other public institutions.
  • Creating new digital training platforms to develop and retain talent (see “Your boss is now more likely to train you up, thanks to a dwindling talent pool”).

Without changes and investment from businesses now, they will be paying the price 10 years down the line.

Want to keep up to date with the workplace of the future? Sign up for Clocking In, our future of work newsletter.