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The Ongoing Worker Shortage

A recent article published by Industry Week addressed the shortage of manufacturing workers in this digital revolution; however, the author notes an overall deficiency has been happening since 1990 with plenty of statistics from numerous reports to support their argument.

The piece goes on to quote that according to a 2018 study by Deloitte and the Manufacturing institute demonstrated that “as recently as August 2018, there were 508,000 open jobs in U.S. manufacturing and this crisis is projected to reach 2.4 million unfilled jobs by 2028.” A second study quoted that 5 million manufacturing jobs were lost between 2000 and 2019 with the issue being a “mismatch” of low-skilled vs high-skilled jobs with no training to support it. Throwing COVID into this mix amplifies the declines to a new level.

Bottom line of the article is the author places the shortage blame on the companies not offering job security and few training opportunities.

Sounds pretty doom and gloom, right?

No One is to Blame

It is unfair to place the shortage blame on any one issue, especially given the current landscape. The gaps vary based on industry, region, and now COVID. The Manufacturing Institute conducted a survey amongst their members and attributed the skill shortage to 3 main reasons.

1. Negative perception by the public of manufacturing

With SVA/SEWN starting because of the steel collapse in Pittsburgh, we are all too familiar with the negative perception of manufacturing. This is an ongoing challenge that companies, recruiters, employees, and marketing experts fight constantly. We always work to dismiss the gritty, pollution filled vision that people have carried for decades and expand their understanding that manufacturing means more.

It’s not to say that the “dirty jobs” don’t exist, but manufacturing encompasses a wide berth of businesses including printers, wineries, bakeries, computer components, as well as more traditional machine shops, woodworking, or chemical manufacturers. It’s time we all worked together to shift the misconception.

2. Retirement of baby boomers

The silver tsunami has been on the industry radar for the last few years but has been turned on its side since COVID. Thomasnet highlighted a few new considerations for companies in addressing the situation:

  • Numerous businesses closed permanently due to COVID increasing the number of workers who need jobs

  • Unemployed and underemployed workers are making career changes to less stressful and more secure positions

  • The baby boom workers upped their retirement plans in search of less structured positions

Companies can take advantage of these considerations by looking at career change folks or retirees for “on-call” positions. This allows the perk of getting someone who knows/understands your company systems while providing the person with a flexibility they seek.

3. New skills needed in the high skilled jobs

Manufacturing evolves and changes every day in attempts to keep up with technology. This presents companies with the added challenge of knowing where to shift and how to upskill their current workforce. From our perspective, we work with partners (shortlist below) across the state who offer a variety of training programs including assistance to cover those costs.

As Long as the Work is Needed, there will Always be a Need for Workers

This challenge will never change. What we strive to do with the SEWN program is work with small and medium sized manufacturers to identify their gaps and find the best solutions. We and our statewide partners all have the same goal of keeping companies open and jobs in Pennsylvania.


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