The Shift in Manufacturing Requires Continuous Skill Development

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by | Dec 14, 2018

To stay competitive in the manufacturing labor market, employees need to keep on top of the quickly changing trends in technology. Historically, manufacturing jobs were thought of as those that didn’t require any specific skill sets. Today, with most manufacturing driven by advances in technology, both employees and employers face challenges to remaining competitive.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics Career Outlook (Got skills? Think manufacturing, June 2014) reports that although manufacturing jobs declined between 2000-2010, jobs began returning in 2010 but the types of jobs available had changed. For example, machines have replaced many assembly line jobs, which requires the need for workers with higher skill sets to manage those machines.

In fact, “More and more factory jobs now demand education, technical know-how or specialized skills. And many of the workers set adrift from low-tech factories lack such qualifications.” (Seattle Times, August 2017)

According to Deloitte, the top five skill sets expected to increase are technology/computer skills, digital skills, programming skills for robots/automation, working with tools and technology, and critical thinking skills.

With manufacturing moving to highly digital production (3-D printing, advanced robotics, etc.), there may be fewer jobs but they will most likely pay higher wages than assembly line jobs because they require higher skill sets. Market Watch notes that these may include more jobs in product development, engineering design, software programming, systems maintenance and logistics. (Market Watch, November 2017)

How Can You Remain Competitive in the Shifting Manufacturing Landscape?

Commit to continuous professional development. “If you don’t keep up with industry changes, you will be left behind. Credentials such as a Six Sigma Black Belt, Certified Quality Engineer, and many others will also make you more marketable outside of your organization.” (Rohner, iHireManufacturing).

With additional training and education, manufacturing employees may see increases in annual salaries. For example, the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics reports wages increase with education:

Education Level Annual Median Wage Type of Job
No high school diploma $21,000-$31,000 Sewing machine operator, hand laborers, truck operators
With high school credential (GED or diploma) $29,000-$50,000 Team assemblers, inspectors, welders, industrial machinery mechanics
With a bachelor’s degree $77,000-$100,000 Management, industrial or mechanical engineers

What does this mean for manufacturers?

Providing retraining for current employees can help retain workers and avoid a gap in skilled labor. Deloitte reported that approximately 70% of manufacturing employees don’t have the computer skills and 67% lack the technical skills to remain competitive. However, with training these employees can learn the skills necessary to continue and advance in their roles, while also advancing your company’s bottom line.

For more information about funding for hiring, new hire training or incumbent worker training, contact the author, Lindsey Brickle. Ms Brickle is the Program Manager for the Phoenix Partnership, one of Polaris MEP’s workforce development partners.

Lindsey Brickle

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