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IndustryNet Blog

Top resources for finding skilled manufacturing workers

Posted by IndustryNet on Monday, June 25, 2018

factory floor tour with high school studentsThe manufacturing skills gap is a multipronged issue requiring several different combined approaches for relief. One common theme though is that students, schools, colleges, industries, as well as local, federal and state governments all need to combine efforts to resolve the issue successfully.

U.S. manufacturing reached its peak in the late 1970s. It provided stable, family-sustaining wages for individuals with only a high school degree, making the American dream possible for many.

Offshoring (moving jobs overseas to take advantage of lower-wage workers) and the Great Recession combined to leave the total number of available manufacturing jobs at only 11.5 million by 2010.

Unfortunately, now that the manufacturing sector is poised for tremendous growth, other factors have entered the picture, making the job market very tight. Baby boomers who should have been able to retire saw their savings decimated by the Recession and are staying on the job longer.

While the reshoring initiative shows promising results, the types of jobs returning from overseas vastly differ from the jobs that left. Instead of low-skilled, manual labor, many of the jobs require some knowledge of robotics or computer skills.

Individuals who could have performed the jobs that left are no longer qualified for the jobs that are returning. For the first time since 2000, the number of job seekers outweighs the number of jobs available.

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) recently polled its membership to find that a staggering 72.9 percent of manufacturing companies indicate that workforce attraction and retention is the number one pain point.

Additionally, 79.8 percent of the membership had current unfilled positions, with 34.4 percent losing business opportunities due to their inability to recruit and retain a full complement of workers.

Solutions to fill the manufacturing skills gap

However, many manufacturers are forming partnerships with community colleges and economic development agencies, sponsoring manufacturing day events, relocating or exploring other creative solutions to help fill the workforce skills gap.

Partnershiptwo men look at computer in with 3D printer nearby in advanced manufacturing and engineering office

Community colleges provide a direct, affordable pathway to current, well-paying manufacturing positions. Partnering with high schools and industry, community colleges have the flexibility in their curriculum to add industry-specific learning.

Through articulation agreements, credits earned transfer directly to many four-year institutions should a job require a bachelor's degree. Additionally, with day and night courses, community colleges allow workers to earn while they learn, working during the day and taking classes in the evening.

Economic development agencies have a vested interest in providing the skilled workforce industry requires. Healthy manufacturing companies hire local workers who, in turn, can support local businesses. According to NAM, for every dollar spent in manufacturing, another $1.89 is added to the economy, making manufacturing investment a wise opportunity for any community.

Some communities grasp this concept and run with it. The Kansas Department of Commerce sponsors the Kansas Industrial Training grant to cover instruction, curriculum and other related expenses for an industry creating new jobs.

Kansas Industrial Retraining addresses employee retention by expanding employee skill sets to meet the changing workforce needs.

The Pitt County Development Commission supports its diverse manufacturing sector through educational and infrastructure programs. This diversity - advanced manufacturing, medical device manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, life sciences and food and agriculture production - ensures that should one sector experience a downturn, the community as a whole will still flourish.

man demonstrates use of manufacturing tool to high school students on a tour of factory floorThe Greater Oklahoma City Chamber also recognizes the value of diversity in manufacturing, housing aviation and aerospace manufacturing, biotech, energy and logistics.

As an incentive, the Chamber's Quality Jobs Program provides up to five percent of payroll for up to 10 years for qualifying companies that create quality jobs.

Diversity plays a large role in the Terre Haute Economic Development Corporation's long-term plan, featuring food and agriculture, life/health sciences, advanced manufacturing, education, customer service and logistics. Public/private partnerships enable Terre Haute to leverage local, state and federal grant dollars, increasing the services that the collaboration can provide to its industrial base.


Many manufacturers now participate in Manufacturing Day events. Usually held in early October, Manufacturing Day helps to dispel many of the myths that prevent today's high school students from pursuing a career in the industry.

Sponsors open their doors for facility tours, often coordinated through the local high schools, community colleges, economic development agencies and other industry partners. These tours showcase the current state of manufacturing and the wide variety of occupations available, from welding to industrial maintenance, robotics, programming and other support activities.

Relocation and other solutions

Some manufacturers choose either expansion or relocation to help to ease their skills gap issues. As funding and other support for such measures vary by state, IndustryNet compiled a resource list by state.

For some companies, tax incentives are a primary motivator for relocation. Other companies look for improved infrastructure in order to more
 easily transport their goods.


Click here to visit IndustryNet's Expansion and Relocation Guide

Still, other manufacturers can be quite creative in resolving the manufacturing skills gap, taking one step backward in order to move forward.

Diamond Brand Gear uses a testing model from the 1940s to determine whether an applicant would be a good candidate for sewing their military-grade backpacks and tents.

Whatever path you choose, IndustryNet provides invaluable information for your business, utilizing its database of over 400,000 U.S. manufacturers and suppliers of 10,000+ products and services as well as other resources and informational materials.


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