Plant Engineering Workforce Development Study: Lack of skilled workers leading to unfilled jobs
Finding qualified workers to fill needed manufacturing jobs has continued to remain a problem for companies and it is limiting their ability to expand operations.
Manufacturing has a skills gap; that much is understood by industry professionals. As the recently completed Workforce Development Study of the issue by Plant Engineering reveals, identifying the solution to this issue remains elusive.
Plant Engineering surveyed its readers in July 2013 on the prevailing attitudes about hiring and training in manufacturing. The fundamental problem remains acute, as 59% of plant managers reported a skilled workforce shortage in their plant. In addition, 22% of the plants said more than 10% of jobs are unfilled for this reason.
It’s a lack of skills, not a lack of workers that is impacting this issue more acutely; 78% of manufacturers reported a lack of skills as the biggest challenge they currently face in filling their skills gap; only 33% blame a lack of applicants.
Perhaps more important, one-third of respondents said the worker shortage is keeping them from expanding their operations.
Too many plant managers feel they are on their own in trying to solve this problem. While 43% feel they can get help from the high schools and community colleges, approximately one-third feel they’ll have to solve the problem themselves because they won’t get adequate help from regional or local agencies.
In response, manufacturers are using a wide range of new recruitment tools and channels:
- 63% of manufacturers are recruiting online
- 54% reach out to community colleges
- 22% reach out to high schools
- 21% reach out to veterans.
While manufacturers are active in their communities, that activity hasn’t extended to vocational education; just 24% said they are involved in such programs locally, yet 55% are members of their local Chamber of Commerce, and 42% sponsor youth sports teams.
That local involvement may explain one of the largest gaps in this survey. While 57% don’t feel manufacturing is seen as a positive career choice in the U.S. as a whole, 85% believe their plant is seen in a positive light in their own community.
Respondents had a wide variety of views on how to improve that perception, which most believe is the key to getting more attention on skilled jobs in manufacturing. Among the comments:
- “It's not seen as glamorous or desirable. The pay and stability would indicate that it is, but the public relations needs to catch up to the reality.”
- “Strengthen connection between manufacturing and actual wealth creation instead of just moving wealth around as in other disciplines (law, government, etc). Stop worrying so much about how we compare to doctors, lawyers, etc., in the public eye. Those who work in manufacturing know they are contributing to wealth creation.”
- “As we deal with the new work force there is a gap from both sides. The young work force is taught that they will change jobs 7 to 10 times in their career. Companies tend to reinforce this by not addressing the needs of the current generation.”
- “Convincing young people that manufacturing offers a rewarding career if you like long hours, physical activity, multiple demands, and teamwork when none of these are typically seen as very ‘glamorous.’”
- “Educate the masses on what the manufactured goods and services do to keep the economy going.”
- “Expand apprenticeship programs and communicate to K-8, junior high schools and high schools opportunities in manufacturing. This must be done by the school systems. Company and union leadership should also promote manufacturing opportunities within their region.”
- “I don't think many understand the amount of technical skills required in manufacturing or the pay level.”
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Annual Salary Survey
In a year when manufacturing continued to lead the economic rebound, it makes sense that plant manager bonuses rebounded. Plant Engineering’s annual Salary Survey shows both wages and bonuses rose in 2012 after a retreat the year before.
Average salary across all job titles for plant floor management rose 3.5% to $95,446, and bonus compensation jumped to $15,162, a 4.2% increase from the 2010 level and double the 2011 total, which showed a sharp drop in bonus.