The Great Employee Shortage

I recently sat down with owners of several manufacturing companies to discover what they need to feel more secure in their business endeavors. It didn’t take long for a theme to emerge. Overwhelmingly, these owners say they are looking for talented workers – a lot of them.

As the economy continues to pick up steam and production increases, business owners say their talent-pool of young, skilled workers is dwindling. The decline of potential employees could not only have long-term implications on our companies, this phenomenon could impact local economies too. So many communities count on the sustainable growth manufacturing companies can bring. But if these enterprises are unable to fill their vacant positions, their ability to meet increased production demands and growth expectations will continue to be unobtainable.

Why The Decline?

A few years ago, the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association (FMA) reported that 52 percent of teenagers in the United States said they had little or no interest in a career in the manufacturing industry. When asked to explain their answer, most of the respondents said that they believed a career in the industry was unreliable. The FMA also noted that American teenagers often associate manufacturing with an “unprofessional career,” “dead-end jobs,” “dirty factories” and “frequent layoffs.”

If these numbers continue to be accurate, it is no wonder why young workers aren’t jumping to apply.

An aging population is also a problem for the manufacturing industry. The Stanford Center on Longevity reported that the U.S. Census Bureau found the aging workforce is retiring faster than the positions can be refilled. The population of younger Americans is significantly smaller than the population of older workers. By 2020, according to the Bureau, the population of those 55 and older will increase 73 percent, compared to the minimal increase of younger workers – 5 percent – over the same period of time.

So, What’s The Solution?

Here are five ways that business owners and industry leaders can help combat this issue:

  1.  Develop more meaningful relationships with schools in their communities and have more frequent and in-depth talks to school administration and students about the industry.
  2. Understand how the company and the industry affect the local and regional population and talk to various groups of people about issues and concerns they may have, as well as the many benefits manufacturing companies provide.
  3. Provide training and career development programs to young employees entering the industry and develop a map for their long-term success within the company.
  4. Abandon high-stress deadlines in lieu of better employee engagement practices. This will result in an increase in short- and long-term productivity as well as greater employee commitment to the company.
  5. Pay closer attention to wage distribution and how the manufacturing company stacks up against other industries. Sometimes, it might feel like the decrease in skilled workers is strictly a result of limited workers, though it is more likely that workers are less inclined to take a manufacturing job because the wages offered are as competitive as in other industries.

As baby boomers retire, the shortage of young, talented workers is only going to increase. Any planning that can be done now will only solidify the manufacturing industry’s ability to fill positions in the long-term. If you’re a manufacturer who is currently facing staffing and talent issues and you want more information about how to tackle this issue, email Rea & Associates.

This article was originally published in Illuminations: Facts & Figures from people with a brighter way, a Rea & Associates enewsletter, 9/23/2014.

Note: This content is accurate as of the date published above and is subject to change. Please seek professional advice before acting on any matter contained in this article.