Web exclusive: Data explosion requires a new skill set for workers
Study by Manpower indicates that education programs aren't modernizing fast enough to keep up with pace of technology growth.
The latest study by global talent recruiter Manpower on the manufacturing workforce looked at the issue of finding workers to manage the emerging technological acceleration in manufacturing. Overall, "while manufacturing technologies are likely to become somewhat easier to implement and operate over the next several years,” the study noted. “They are also likely to become much more widespread within manufacturing environments. This suggests that the demand for techs will rise, and that they will have to play a more hands-on role in installing, adjusting, and maintaining (manufacturing technology) devices within their organizations.
“In addition, the rise of cellular manufacturing—environments in which workers in relatively autonomous teams manufacture entire products or complex product components—as well as the increased ease of use of MT devices, suggest that there will be less of a distinction between factory-floor manufacturing workers and techs.”
Plant Engineering (PE) discussed these findings with Jorge Perez, senior vice president for Manpower, as well as their implications for manufacturers looking to expand or restock their workforce.
PE: The Manpower Manufacturing study seems to indicate the proliferation of data is coming fast in manufacturing. What are the barriers to using data more effectively?
Perez: From the talent perspective, the proliferation of data is accelerating both the speed of technology development and its integration on the manufacturing floor. As such, educational programs are not modernizing fast enough to manufacture a steady supply of talent with the right skills.
Today’s talent needs to clearly understand why they need to be life-time learners and continually add skills in order to be employable. Likewise, companies and local educational systems need to collaboratively define comprehensive and scalable skills-training programs that will maintain a healthy pipeline of talent for area employers.
PE: We hear so much about how tech-savvy the younger generations are, and manufacturing is clearly a high-tech business today. Why is there still a disconnection between young workers and high-tech manufacturing jobs?
Perez: Great question. Our surveys and candidate feedback tell us that high-tech positions have not been perceived as great career opportunities. As a society, we have done a great job of encouraging students to earn four-year college degrees, but they are overlooking the value and great career options offered by technical and skilled vocations, which often require two-year degrees.
High-tech business and educational systems have to do a much better job at repositioning the value and real opportunities available within technical and skilled trades. These jobs are critical and in supply in today’s economy.
79% of manufacturing managers stated, “manufacturing technologies are increasingly computer-based, and require many of the skills to manage and operate as computers do.”
There is still a perception that manufacturing is just hard and dirty work. The reality is that most high-tech facilities offer cutting-edge environments with a strong safety culture, high performance standards and great career development opportunities.
PE: The line between IT and operations also has been blurred or erased. What are the implications for manufacturing operations?
Perez: The challenge for employers is to re-position the value of technical jobs in order to attract and retain talent. And they need to maintain a continuous training/educational program that keeps talent up to speed with the pace of their company’s innovation.
PE: One conclusion of the Manpower Manufacturing study is that while engineering and IT degrees will be valued, some of this work can be done by well-trained people with aptitude. What’s the key to finding these kinds of workers, and what role do all the stakeholders in manufacturing have to play in filling those jobs.
Perez: Here is where the re-branding of manufacturing jobs from all industry stakeholders—including corporations, educational systems and local governments—is critical.
To build an essential pipeline of talent, all stakeholders need to start working with kids at the middle-school level to demystify the intensive integrated work that happens on the manufacturing floor and expose the modern value of today’s manufacturing environment and jobs.
PE: What should manufacturers who are facing a worker shortage in high-tech jobs like the ones in your report be doing to address this issue?
Perez: They need to reach out to local educational systems and governments and create a regional plan for developing the talent pipeline required by area employers.
There is no simple solution, but there is a very good opportunity to alleviate the skills shortage gap if stakeholders in a local economy can collaboratively customize a plan that meets their local needs.
Annual Salary Survey
After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.
The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.