Most U.S. manufacturers agree that increased growth and investment opportunities are on the horizon, despite some of the uncertainties related to global trade. But they say a major issue looms: Where are the skilled workers for the digital factories of the future?
From IT departments and engineering to logistics, manufacturing, and construction, industry experts are getting older, retiring, and leaving a vacuum. But it’s not their fault. With the exception of IT, industries like manufacturing, construction, and trucking can be seen as unfavorable areas for careers—heavy or “dirty” industries, if you will. But it’s 2018, and technology is driving these markets to a new level of innovation.
In 2017, Junior Achievement of Southeastern Michigan and Cooper Standard partnered together to create a STEM education program, recognizing that the highly publicized skills gap is really rooted in an interest gap with students. The goal of the program is to inspire and educate middle and high school students to consider STEM-related careers. The program will reach approximately 3,000 students throughout southeast Michigan each year and has generated overwhelming interest from students, teachers, and program volunteers.
The goal of STEM Education Works' curriculum is to expose students to industry-relevant technical skills at a younger age, Strimel said. These types of skills are currently only introduced in high-school elective classes, he said, but by applying academic standards such as Next Generation Science Standards, the curriculum can be a foundation in core STEM classes to introduce these skills in middle school.
The conclusion from the working paper, The Effects of Scientists and Engineers on Productivity and Earnings at the Establishment Where They Work, by Erling Barth, James C. Davis, Richard B. Freeman, and Andrew J. Wang, is pretty clear for manufacturers and policy advocates for improving U.S. manufacturing: firms should hire as many scientists and engineers as possible.
Because of a confluence of economic and technological forces, the United States now has an opportunity to rebuild its manufacturing base and restore its global competitiveness. But another report will not help. Bold steps commensurate with the scale and importance of the objectives are absolutely necessary. Implementing these bold steps requires a national focal point of responsibility with a comprehensive strategy and significant and sustained public and private investments. Other countries are not standing still. The onus is on us.
According to research from the Society for Human Resource Management, citing Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, the percentage of boomers retiring has doubled over the past eight years and will continue to increase until the last of the boomers reach 65 around 2030. This is particularly challenging for manufacturers. Not only are more than a quarter of manufacturing workers over the age of 55, but the BLS also notes that manufacturers have the highest tenure compared to other sectors.
The specific roles expected to feel the talent shortage most acutely are in skilled production, such as machinists, operators and technicians, which together amounts to more than 50 percent of the manufacturing workforce. Design engineers are another job role critical to manufacturing where a lack of workers will have a detrimental effect on the industry, specifically in the development of new products and manufacturing processes.
Businesses are seeking workers whose profile is different from that of decades past, when a high school diploma was more than enough. As robots take over much of the manual labor in factories, the new jobs being created tend to require computer and engineering skills and advanced training. That’s helped to fuel a boomlet of college investment in manufacturing programs.
If you’re looking to buy a car from Ford, you’ll soon have only one choice: a Mustang. Faced with plunging demand and declining profits from its passenger car lineup, Ford will shift its resources to the booming side of the market: pickups, SUVs and crossover-utility vehicles, said CEO Jim Hackett late on Wednesday.