When we first discussed the skills gap back in 2012, we cited a shocking number: 600,000. At that point just under 4 years ago now, 600,000 was the number of skilled manufacturing jobs currently open according to the Manufacturing Institute. That’s over half a million jobs open!
Over these last four years leading up to today, the skills gap has manifested itself in many different ways. So, too, has the conversation about the skills gap changed. Will lost manufacturing jobs reduce the gap? Will automation replace human workers? What’s in store for millennials who get into manufacturing careers today?
Though they don’t claim to have all the answers, accounting and consulting firm PwC recently released a report that answers many questions today’s manufacturers and manufacturing workers have about the skills gap and the future of the industry. The report, “Up-skilling US manufacturing: How technology is disrupting America’s industrial labor force,” covers questions about everything from automation to the future of work.
While we definitely recommend that you give the full report a look if you’re interested in this issue, we’ve adapted some of PwC’s key points for you to read here. Here’s what they found about the skills gap today:
Not all manufacturers are feeling the skills gap: 1/3rd of manufacturers told PwC they have “no or only a little difficulty” finding and hiring talent for advanced manufacturing jobs. 44% have “moderate difficulty.”
Manufacturers agree the skills gap is going to grow in the coming years: 31% of manufacturers don’t see any skills gap now but think there will be one in the next 3 years. 26% say it’s behind us, and 29% said it currently exists and will only get worse in the coming years.
Robots aren’t taking our jobs (!): 37% of those surveyed by PwC believe that the adoption of advanced manufacturing technologies (like robots) will result in hiring additional employees, while 45% said it won’t have any impact and only 17% said it will result in hiring fewer employees.
Training in-house employees is the most common way employers are filling skilled positions in advanced manufacturing, followed by recruiting local STEM students and offering outside vocational training.
Though the problem is perhaps not as severe as it was in 2012 when experts reported over half a million skilled jobs going unfilled, the skills gap is still present today. As you can see from the key findings above, many companies only expect the problem to get worse in the coming years as more and more baby boomers retire from the workforce.
This, of course, is not necessarily great news for manufacturers: unfilled positions means decreased production and less money made. The real upside here is for people considering careers in advanced manufacturing. Based off of the findings of this survey and our conversations with manufacturers around the state, there are going to continue to be many tremendous opportunities for the students who decide to pursue careers in manufacturing. Such students are going to be in very high demand, so there’s also the potential for truly lucrative career paths!
Is the skills gap as bad as it once was? According to this PwC survey, maybe not. But it’s still alive and well, and that means continued opportunities for students wise enough to consider careers in advanced manufacturing.
photo credit: Two men inspect the quality of tile being produced in factory via photopin (license)