In-demand Manufacturing Skills Require Higher Education

The manufacturing skills that businesses need today are not the same as the skills needed decades ago, or even in recent past years. Manufacturing today “requires workers with a diverse set of skills to perform functions such as research and development (R&D), product and production design, marketing and sales, and customer support,” reports the Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce in the report Upskilling and Downsizing in American Manufacturing.

The manufacturing skills demanded today reflect the increase in technology, automation and AI across all businesses. Workers in production need the skills to apply advanced technology to the manufacturing processes. Other important manufacturing skills today include the ability to use technological advances to design, create and manage the process. Workers not directly involved in production need skills that include the abilities problem solve, create, communicate and work in teams.

Present and Future Demand for Advanced Manufacturing Skills

Manufacturing plays a vital role in creating a thriving economy; it serves the needs of every other business and people’s daily lives. Manufacturers provide the equipment and tools that other businesses use to produce their products. The health care industry uses tools and instruments produced by manufacturers. Logistics and transportation grow and improve with improved products from manufacturing. Construction, infrastructure and financial industries are productive because they have equipment provided by manufacturing. Manufacturing provides the goods that people need for their daily lives along with products to export to other countries.

But manufacturing is headed toward a crisis, says management consultant firm Korn Ferry. By 2030, there will be a worldwide shortage of 7.9 million workers with the necessary manufacturing skills. These figures include United States; in the next 10 years will have a 383,000 worker shortage.

Advancing technology, increased automation and AI are factors that contribute to the shortage of workers with in-demand manufacturing skills. Manufacturing workers will face the need to develop technical skills so they can work with technology and adapt to changes. “Automation may provide great gains for manufacturing; indeed, technology may replace some of the labor of mid-skilled and low-skilled workers,” says Korn Ferry global industrial market president Yannick Binvel. “But the demand for people who can innovate, create, manage, and apply new developments – typically highly skilled people – will skyrocket, partly in response. Jobs won’t disappear but they’ll evolve.”

Answering the Need for Manufacturing Skills

The skills gap has been manufacturers’ top challenge for the past nine quarters, including problems recruiting and retaining workers, according to the National Association of Manufacturers’ Outlook survey.  According to report by the Manhattan Institute, a think tank focused on economic growth, 88 percent of the U.S. manufacturers who responded to a survey said they have difficulty finding skilled workers.

Post-secondary education will enable workers to develop the manufacturing skills they need for work as manufacturing processes evolve and many businesses are creating opportunities to create education programs and provide education benefits for their workers.  Almost 70 percent of manufacturers are creating or expanding training programs.

Offering education benefits to employees is one way employers can work to strengthen their talent resources. Full-service education designed to allow employees to seek opportunities to complete their education, take advanced coursework or earn certification will attract and retain employees who can lead manufacturers with strong skills. Education plans, such as the plans that Edcor develops for their clients, will allow employers to offer tuition benefits that aid in their employees’ growth as well as business development. Education plans that encourage employees to seek multiple levels of education will develop company talent with strong manufacturing skills.

National Association of Manufacturers president and CEO Jay Timmons states, “Today’s manufacturing “has undergone a seismic shift in the way it operates. It’s an industry that is about upscaling, upskilling and future-proofing jobs for all Americans — a dynamic environment that supports not just today’s jobs but also tomorrow’s.”