Combating Labor Shortages in the Manufacturing Industry

Labor Shortages In The Manufacturing Industry

Few sectors of the economy embody the rapidly evolving American workplace in the way that manufacturing does. It’s a sector that continuously embraces swift advances in technology and represents an immense financial footprint in our economy contributing 2.52 trillion dollars in the second quarter of last year alone. Furthermore, the industry currently accounts for 15.8 million jobs and it is predicted that US manufacturers will need to fill 4.6 million jobs by the year 2028. The real concern is that due to a variety of factors such as a skills gap, an aging workforce, and misperceptions about modern manufacturing more than half of those jobs may go unfilled. As the sector continues to build its way into the future, HR departments within the sector must evolve to keep pace with rapid rates of change while finding creative solutions to combat labor shortages in the manufacturing industry. 

Managing an Aging Workforce

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that by 2024, 25% of the labor force will be 55 or older. However, even back in 2016, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) studies showed that 25% of the manufacturing workforce was already over 55 years old. According to a report by Panopto Workplace Knowledge and Productivity, the loss of these workers, combined with a lack of knowledge transfer is estimated to cost large companies approximately $47 million per year. With open jobs in manufacturing reaching an all-time high of 10.5 million as of the last day of December 2021, manufacturers are finding that a strategy for retaining older workers is becoming an increased necessity.

Turning Age Into an Asset

In the coming years, manufacturing leaders will need to prepare to replenish a retiring workforce. At the same time, they will need to make the most of the senior staff they have in order to limit the loss of expertise and knowledge these workers will take with them. Be proactive in making accommodations for your senior talent and show respect for their years of knowledge by creating a mentor program for senior workers to train junior staff. Mentorship programs that pair seasoned workers with junior counterparts offer a great opportunity for the next generation to learn not only the what and how, but most importantly the why behind decades of skill.

challenges in the manufacturing industry

Combating the Poor Perception of Manufacturing

The manufacturing industry suffers from an image problem that often undermines its competitiveness as a career. A past Deloit survey showed that  45% of respondents felt that  “negative perceptions towards the manufacturing industry” was a primary cause for projected job vacancies. Furthermore, less than 30% of those surveyed said they’d be likely to encourage their children to pursue manufacturing as a career. 

The reality is that manufacturing workers currently earn as much as $20,000 more annually including pay and benefits, than their counterparts in other industries. Additionally, manufacturing holds the highest average wages ($81,289) across the private sector and has one of the lowest turnover rates in the US at 2.3%.

Create Awareness and Spread the News

Careers in modern manufacturing are high-tech, profitable, clean, and safe. This is not your grandfathers manufacturing floor. Use campaigns that center on highlighting the individual job’s benefits, for example:

  • high wages 
  • any sign-on bonuses offered 
  • flexible or traditional schedules (if offered) 
  • clear career paths 

In short, shine the spotlight on the factors that attract and retain top talent.

Scheduling Constraints

One of the most enduring stereotypes of the manufacturing industry is that of the 9-to-5 worker who files in punching that clock before the opening whistle and files back out when the closing whistle blows. While many people still see a 9-5 schedule as a benefit, others are in search of more flexibility. The reality is that today’s manufacturing industry comes with unique demands and responsibilities that have long put the industry at the forefront of innovative scheduling. 

Show Your Flex

With the pandemic era leading more and more of the workforce in search of flexible scheduling, manufacturing can pull ahead in the talent race by promoting flex scheduling along with other benefits. As more flexible scheduling options become available, manufacturers are finding new ways to use that flexibility to boost productivity, improve employee retention, and attract higher-quality applicants. A best practice is to showcase every available scheduling option to attract the largest talent pool. Particularly if your floor is capable of offering both full-time and part-time positions be sure to make it a talking point in marketing and in interviews. Being open to both types of workers can help to bring in talent that is looking to supplement income or work around school and depending on situations, it may be easier to convert part-timers to full-time staff when needed.  

Workforce Diversity 

Long seen as a man’s world, once upon a time, a career in manufacturing required strength, brute force, and physical labor. Today the physical requirements of the average manufacturing job rarely require more than the strength to stand for the entire shift. The same requirement of retail and restaurant locations everywhere. However, the stigma of “men’s work” still lingers over the industry. Women make up about 47% of the total workforce, but of the 15.8 million people employed in manufacturing industries, less than 30% are women. Another underrepresented segment is veterans, with only around 12% of employed veterans currently working in the industry. 

Cast a Wider Net

With whole demographic segments of the workforce going largely untapped, targeted campaigns aimed at both parties could go a long way towards shoring up talent shortages. Highlight the top factors that make your production floor a great place to work and place a spotlight on positions that have low to no entry barriers such as experience requirements. 

Make Marketing Work for You

With the topics we’ve covered in this article, a key factor will be marketing. As you reach out to younger generations entering the workforce, social job sharing, employer branding, and a strong digital presence will be key factors in your success in the talent war.  With labor shortages and emerging technology accelerating change and bringing new challenges, it’s time for manufacturing managers to strategize for better recruiting, hiring, and retention. Partnering with a recruitment marketing firm like Work4 can help to elevate your recruitment marketing to the next level and improve your recruitment efforts. If you’re interested in manufacturing hiring solutions, we can help. We specialize in recruiting and hiring for the manufacturing industry. We’re here to help, contact us today to see how we can help you face the future of hiring in the manufacturing industry.

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