Manufacturers Look for Ways to Close Increasing Skills Gap

Posted by Penn Foster on January 23, 2019

The manufacturing industry is currently facing a workforce crisis that could potentially leave millions of lucrative jobs unfilled in years to come. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) reports, there are about 488,000 open manufacturing jobs in the United States. While the number of open jobs has decreased month over month, the number of unfilled manufacturing jobs is projected to continue to rise in the coming years. This trend could have a lasting effect on not only manufacturing in the United States, but also the overall economic growth in our country.

The ongoing skills gap may be to blame for the high volume of unfilled jobs. According to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), 73% of manufacturers cite the skills gap as their top concern for the future of their industry. The Manufacturing Institute (MI) is working hard to address this concern and turn the tide of the industry through several initiatives: 

  • Heroes MAKE America - this program helps match returning service members with a manufacturing opportunity that is right for them.
  • STEP Ahead - this initiative supports and showcases the impact women have in manufacturing.
  • Manufacturing Day - October 5th is dedicated to celebrating the manufacturing industry. Over 2,700 manufacturers across the nation participate by educating students, parents, teachers, policymakers and community leaders on what  manufacturing is like today. 

The Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network (MAGNET) is also attempting to address the skill gap by way of its two-year apprenticeship program for high school students. Students in the Early College Early Career (ECEC) program take tuition-free classes toward an advanced manufacturing and technology degree and learn the skills employers are looking for in the industry.

Major employers in manufacturing, like Timberland, have taken it upon themselves to actively recruit for open jobs. Timberland's new advertisements feature real workers in manufacturing positions to market to other potential workers and highlight open jobs in their field. Advertisements spotlighting manufacturing positions in major companies can help potential job seekers connect their dreams to a reality. It reassures them that there are jobs in their field. 

Other manufacturers, like UAW-Ford, are taking matters in their own hands through the establishment of Apprenticeship and Pre-Apprenticeship programs. In 2016, a number of Ford's journeymen were eligible to retire and the company was at risk to losing valuable knowledge and skill sets within the UAW-Ford apprenticeable trades. To get ahead of this impending skills gap, UAW-Ford partnered with Penn Foster to create a pre-apprenticeship program that developed eligible candidates for their Joint Apprentice Program. UAW-Ford launched the Industrial Readiness Certificate Program (IRCP), which consists of three courses that can be completed exclusively online, with Penn Foster. To date, the program has expanded the talent pipeline for their Joint Apprentice Program by over 400 employees.

Overall, the skills gap still remains a concern, but it is being addressed by major key players in the manufacturing space. These type of initiatives, including flexible training options by employers, and other programs that promote manufacturing and shed light on industry challenges, will be crucial to keep U.S. manufacturing on the right track.