By Laser 1 Technologies

Attracting And Retaining Top Talent In Manufacturing

Attracting and maintaining top talent is an ongoing concern in the manufacturing industry. The role of the factory worker is changing, and the challenges faced by employers are changing along with it. Many factors come into play, including the increasing use of automation, the higher skill sets required in many positions, and of course the changes in the manufacturing arena which experts anticipate due to the potential trade/tariff war on the horizon.

The Trade Partnership, a consulting firm that researches international trade, anticipates that upcoming tariffs could cost the US about 146,000 jobs. Manufacturing jobs are shrinking slightly (the ADP Research Institute cites a roughly 0.3 percent drop in 2017). However, a worker shortage of two million, anticipated by 2025, would more than compensate for that shrinkage.

I’ve talked here before about attracting and retaining millennials in the manufacturing arena. What other strategies should be pursued?

Automation Is Inevitable

According to McKinsey’s 2017 report, A Future That Works, 49 percent of paid tasks in the global economy have the potential to become automated. We’ve certainly seen this as consumers, in everything from ATM machines to automated food ordering at McDonald’s to buying personal audio equipment from a vending machine at the airport. It’s also the case on manufacturing lines as technology improves and robots can do a job equal or better to their human counterparts, without demanding lunch breaks, weekends off or health insurance.

Automation Demands a Higher-Skilled Worker

A Deloitte report finds that 67 percent of the current manufacturing work force is deficient in technical skills, and 70 percent are deficient in computer skills.

The new generation of manufacturing depends on workers with greater skills, especially in the IT arena. Many manufacturers complain they simply aren’t finding enough skilled candidates. A long-term, macro perspective suggests supporting education in general by making higher education cheaper and more accessible, and by raising the quality of high school education and graduation rates to prep young people to enter the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. By creating a pipeline of STEM-skilled workers, manufacturers will enjoy a larger pool of talent. Likewise, establishing apprenticeship programs and recruiting at colleges can raise awareness of manufacturing jobs among young people.


Additionally, manufactures can and should invest in training their existing workforce, ensuring greater job security for, and better retention of, their existing employees. That education should include both hard technical skills, and an overview of how industries are changing and will continue to change. Neither employers nor employees can be complacent in today’s global economy of lightning-fast changes. Other strategies for retention include flexible hours, competitive pay, and opportunity for advancement.

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