Industrial Revolution or Industry vs. Revolution? A new hope emerges for the future of U.S. Manufacturing. 

Background

The Manufacturing Institute focuses on the growth and support of the manufacturing industry’s workers for the betterment of modern manufacturing. It is an advocate for various diverse initiatives that back all workers in America. Essentially, the Manufacturing Institute is critical to the industry as it provides the necessary resources to attack the industry’s most significant challenges — Deloitte is a multinational, professional services network assisting many of the world’s most well-known and respected brands, including almost 90% of the Fortune 500 and over 7,000 private companies.

Let’s get right to the point, the salient skills gap within the manufacturing industry is looking at an expected 2.1 million jobs left unfilled by 2030: Adding salt to the wound, this would place a $1 trillion dent in the U.S. economy.

This study pulls data from two online surveys including over 800 U.S. manufacturing executives. Through interviews and extensive analysis, Deloitte and the Manufacturing Industry were able to release the newest projections for what the future may hold for manufacturing.

[Like all things] It’s The Pandemic’s Fault

We can all confidently agree that in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, nearly everyone experienced some sort of fall or step backwards as a result of the pandemic. According to the study, the pandemic established the removal of about 1.4 million manufacturing jobs in the U.S., basically a decade of job growth within the manufacturing industry. Despite being able to hire back 820,000 of these jobs by the conclusion of 2020, the leftover 570,000 jobs have not been refilled—Even more odd because of the growing number of job openings this past year.

What’s Going On?

U.S. manufacturing leaders claim that finding the “right talent” is nearly 40% more difficult than it was just three years ago in 2018, even though the unemployment rate has risen drastically since then. When manufacturing companies are not able to fill jobs, the top two consequences faced are the absence of building revenue growth and maintaining production levels in order to satisfy demand. Nearly 80% of the industry stated that the present, ongoing struggles regarding the attraction and retention of new employees will persist in 2021 and beyond—Not the most optimistic mindset, but it sure does hold true based on the consistency of data throughout the study.

Additionally, revealed in the study, a major reason why roles within this industry tend to go unfilled is due to the general public upholding varied, inaccurate expectations of manufacturing positions. The difficulty in attracting entry-level and skilled workers in the right geographic markets is commonly made more challenging due to these misconceptions about manufacturing work, specifically amongst younger generations, and whether it provides a rewarding career and work-life balance.

Other major sources of this challenge are simply the overall lack of interest in the industry as well as the retirement of the last of the baby boomers. Those falling under the baby boomer category are now in their 70s at the youngest; with that, the generation largely considered to be the most driven and motivated workforce era, is witnessing its demise as father time plays his part.

In comparison to the closely-tied warehousing and storage industry—which recovered all jobs lost during the pandemic, the manufacturing industry has only recovered around 60% of jobs lost.

Steps Forward: Workforce Diversity

While it’s widely known and established that women are underrepresented in manufacturing, the new study found that 25% of women already in this field are considering departure as well. This formulates an even larger problem for manufacturing leaders trying to attract more women into the industry, as they are now also trying to slow the movement of those leaving.

The statistic that stood out most must be that only 30% of current manufacturing workers are women, despite filling nearly half of the overall U.S. workforce. In addition, women who participated in the survey were 1.8x more likely than men to consider leaving the industry. That being said, around 50% of manufacturers who took part in the survey stated that they already have a program in place specifically focusing on recruiting women. Although a large majority of manufacturers have established Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) training within their respective talent management programs, less than 25% of respondents find the programs in place to be effective in gaining and retaining employees.

Looking Ahead

Yes, it may seem a little chaotic now. But rest assured—there are multiple, highly engaged efforts in progress to battle the current trends against the industry and to revamp a manufacturing workforce that is more pensive of our society. For example, The Manufacturing Institute’s STEP Women’s Initiative was created to attract, recruit, and retain more women into manufacturing through acknowledgement, analysis, and leadership. Initiatives like this are critical in the industry’s fight to the commitment of the narrowing of the skills gap.

The Tipping Point: It’s Now or Never

The industry has realized and understands what is occurring around them and what needs to be done in order to flip the switch regarding perceptions of manufacturing towards a fresh generation and further diversifying the pipeline entering the workforce. The only choice is for manufacturers to take charge in leading a new dynamic to cultivate potential recruitment pools. Key recommendations include: An increased amount of community engagement, continuous assessment of company culture, and enhancing DEI programs and processes. Moreover, begin recruitment efforts at the high school level in order to fine-tune perceptions of the manufacturing industry early by highlighting career-building opportunities and attractive compensation. The way manufacturers pursue solutions for the next few years will be vital for the future of the industry, but it must start now. Here at Yamamoto, we are passionate advocates for growing awareness and interest towards the manufacturing industry and are actively seeking to help businesses overcome its ongoing obstacles. If you’re looking for a place to do your part or are simply looking for more information, feel free to contact us for a consultation!