Addressing the skilled labor shortage in manufacturing

Opportunities in the U.S. manufacturing industry have been on a sharp incline as the economy works its way back to the level that existed prior to the onset on the recession. During that time, many people found themselves without jobs and the industrial sector slowed to a crawl. However, now companies are ramping up production efforts and they are in search of individuals with skillsets that can help them reach their organizational goals. However, this has not been without its share of issues and challenges.

U.S. battles a skilled labor shortage in manufacturing
According to Reuters, between 2007 and 2009 – essentially at the height of the recession – the manufacturing industry lost 2.3 million jobs. During that time, many skilled laborers either retired or sought opportunities in completely different business sectors. In the last five years, roughly 500,000 manufacturing jobs have returned, but openings are steadily increasing and companies are having a hard time filling these positions.

Some have enlisted the help of supplemental staffing agencies and manufacturing recruiters, but they, too, are having difficulties making placements.

"The pressures we are having is just keeping the workers in the industry," Rob Moore, who heads Big-D Corporation in Salt lake City, Utah, told Reuters. "When the market starts to come up and we start seeing more projects become available, the fear for us is where are the workers going to come from? The skilled workers that have moved into these different market segments, can we get them back into construction?"

In an article from Advanced Technology Services, citing a joint study conducted by Deloitte Consulting and the Manufacturing Institute, it was found that 65 percent of those polled felt the industrial sector is critical to national security. Seventy-six percent of respondents felt that manufacturing was an important component to a higher living standard for Americans, while 78 percent felt that the industrial sector was key when it comes to the prosperity of the economy.

Another area of interest regarding the worker shortage is the recruitment of skilled laborers to the sector who are also women. Manufacturing has always primarily been an industry comprised almost entirely of male workers. A recent report from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, citing a joint poll conducted by Plante Moran and Women in Manufacturing, found that less than 10 percent of the women polled listed the industrial sector as one that offered them the best career opportunity.

"In the midst of the resurgence of manufacturing in the U.S., companies are facing a widely acknowledged talent shortage," the newspaper quoted the Deloitte and Manufacturing Institute report as saying. "Meanwhile, there's one obvious source of human capital that the manufacturing industry has not fully tapped: women."

It's clear that within the manufacturing industry, opportunities abound. This is a good thing. However, when it comes to sourcing for candidates with skillsets that are in-demand, manufacturing recruiters will need to be aggressive in their approaches, as well as innovative in order to identify and secure talent. This means mining for candidates in untapped and obscure places.

Chicago places heavy emphasis on manufacturing opportunities
With the worker shortage clearly apparent, strong efforts have been made to restore stability back to the manufacturing sector with an influx of new blood. This is especially important as jobs open up in numbers greater than the workers available to fill them.

Citing a CBS News report, Advanced Technology Services wrote that manufacturing job openings have doubled in a year's time to 227,000 in 2014, yet a large majority of these opportunities went unfilled. To combat this growing problem across the country, Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago, launched an initiative in conjunction with the Chicago Federation of Labor and World Business Chicago to fill 1,000 openings in the industrial sector over the next 12 months, according to an Industry Week report.

In order to accomplish this lofty goal, job seekers will be offered the opportunity to participate in apprenticeship programs and skills training classes to develop the required proficiency needed to effectively perform duties in the manufacturing industry.

"This program to connect 1,000 workers to manufacturing jobs builds on the work that we have done to reestablish Chicago as one of the country's major manufacturing hubs," Mayor Emanuel told Industry Week.

Jeff Malehorn, World Business Chicago's president, stated that the initiative, if successful, has the potential to grow the city's economy by as much as $400 million. This highlights the overall importance of the manufacturing sector.

Chicago recruiters and other staffing representatives around the country should mine for skilled laborers in apprenticeship programs and other training facilities grooming the next generation of the industrial workforce. This is an example of an outside-the-box sourcing strategy that can reap huge benefits for supplemental staffing agencies and their clients looking for workers with in-demand, manufacturing skillsets. 

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