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.

09/17/2013


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.

Courtesy: Plant EngineeringPlant 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.

Courtesy: Plant EngineeringWhile 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.”


Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
October 2018
Tools vs. sensors, functional safety, compressor rental, an operational network of maintenance and safety
September 2018
2018 Engineering Leaders under 40, Women in Engineering, Six ways to reduce waste in manufacturing, and Four robot implementation challenges.
July/Aug
GAMS preview, 2018 Mid-Year Report, EAM and Safety
October 2018
2018 Product of the Year; Subsurface data methodologies; Digital twins; Well lifecycle data
August 2018
SCADA standardization, capital expenditures, data-driven drilling and execution
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, programming cavity pumps
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
October 2018
Complex upgrades for system integrators; Process control safety and compliance
September 2018
Effective process analytics; Four reasons why LTE networks are not IIoT ready

Annual Salary Survey

After two years of economic concerns, manufacturing leaders once again have homed in on the single biggest issue facing their operations:

It's the workers—or more specifically, the lack of workers.

The 2017 Plant Engineering Salary Survey looks at not just what plant managers make, but what they think. As they look across their plants today, plant managers say they don’t have the operational depth to take on the new technologies and new challenges of global manufacturing.

Read more: 2017 Salary Survey

The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
One Voice for Manufacturing
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Blog
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Machine Safety
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
Research Analyst Blog
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Material Handling
This digital report explains how everything from conveyors and robots to automatic picking systems and digital orders have evolved to keep pace with the speed of change in the supply chain.
Electrical Safety Update
This digital report explains how plant engineers need to take greater care when it comes to electrical safety incidents on the plant floor.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
Design of Safe and Reliable Hydraulic Systems for Subsea Applications
This eGuide explains how the operation of hydraulic systems for subsea applications requires the user to consider additional aspects because of the unique conditions that apply to the setting
click me