Plant Engineering 2015 Workforce Development Study

Five findings on the unskilled workforce struggle

Amanda Pelliccione


Source: Plant Engineering, CFE MediaRespondents to the CFE Media 2015 Workforce Development Study identified five high-level findings impacting the manufacturing industries today:

  1. Workforce shortage: The average manufacturing facility today has 5% of jobs currently unfilled, down from 7% in 2014. Despite the decrease, 64% of respondents still believe that their facility’s workforce shortage will increase over the next 3 to 5 years.

  2. Causes: When asked about the primary causes of the workforce shortage, 56% of respondents said there aren’t enough skilled applicants to fill the roles of the growing number of retirees, and another 34% agree that their hiring rates aren’t keeping up with manufacturing’s rapid expansion.

  3. Unskilled workforce: According to respondents, the younger workforce most lacks problem solving (57%), instrumentation (55%), project management (51%), and electrical knowledge (50%); but they remain proficient in computer knowledge (60%) and other basic skills (31%).

  4. Actions taken: In an effort to combat the workforce shortage, 44% of facilities have taken to online recruitment and job postings, 40% have instituted or increased in-house training, and 35% have reached out to local technical schools for assistance. Nine in 10 respondents believe that their facilities still need to increase internal education/training programs and provide clear career paths for each new employee in order to better appeal to the younger workforce. 

  5. Manufacturing’s image: More than half of respondents still don’t believe that manufacturing is portrayed as a positive career choice in the U.S. Sixty-three percent agree that offering apprenticeship programs would help to improve manufacturing’s image, and another 57% think introducing this career choice at an earlier education level—as well as improving salaries, benefits, and job security—are key action items.

Access the full 2015 Workforce Development report with additional findings.

- Amanda Pelliccione is research director at CFE Media.

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