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Report: Manufacturing Workforce Shortage is Getting Worse

Sarah Webster
By Sarah A. Webster Editor in Chief, SME Media

The shortage of qualified production workers in the United States is getting worse, according to results from a March 2013 survey released on June 6 by the Manufacturing Leadership Council and Frost & Sullivan.

The report, entitled “The Manufacturing Workforce: A Deepening Crisis,” says: “The issue of attracting people with the right skills to manufacturing jobs, both hourly and salaried, is not only real, but is growing more severe despite numerous efforts by many organizations to develop skills certification programs, initiatives such as STEM programs to raise educational levels, and report-laden campaigns to refuse the public perception that manufacturing is not an attractive career choice.”

The survey was developed by the Manufacturing Leadership Council Editorial Department and was approved by the Board of Governors. The survey was fielded to the Manufacturing Leadership Community audience, including members of the Manufacturing Leadership Council, in March of 2013. These findings are based on 226 completed responses:

In North America, 80.6% of companies reported a medium or high level of difficulty finding qualified workers. In the next 5-10 years, however, the number that expected a high level of difficulty finding workers jumped to 35.9% from 27.3% today.

More than half, 51.5%, of respondents said that candidates for hourly positions are coming to them underqualified and not “workforce-ready.”

Only 31% of survey respondents said they have devised a formal strategy to identify their long-term workforce needs, including skill types.

The skills identified as high or medium priority recruiting areas were: engineering (92%); technical skills, such as welding and mechanics (90%); management (89%); and computer science (77%).

“The bottom line on the manufacturing workforce,” the report concludes, “is that manufacturers face significant challenges in attracting the people they need to run their production facilities and operations. Absent major changes and improvements to the educational system as well as the public perception of manufacturing and the career opportunities it can offer, individual manufacturing companies will bear most of the responsibility for providing for their future workforce needs.”

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