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Functional training in the industrial sector: Where is the skills shortage?

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Do we have the skills we need to move forward? The US economy is facing competition from all four corners of the globe – more so than ever before as technology allows disruptors to rise from obscurity in a short term period. But how well equipped is the American workforce to cope with a period of competition and change? Do we have the skills needed to adapt and move with the times – or are there gaps that need to be filled?

Report highlights big issues to be addressed

A report from Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute suggests that the latter is true. It found that by 2025 there are likely to be 3.5 million manufacturing jobs needed in the US – and that 2 million of those are likely to go unfilled due to a skills gap.

Other findings from the report included:

  • The fact that 84 per cent of executives believe there to be a talent shortage in the US manufacturing sector
  • Six in every ten skilled positions lie unfilled because of a shortage of talent
  • An expectation from 82 per cent of executives that the skill gap would prevent them from meeting customer demand.

A healthy manufacturing sector is important to deliver new infrastructure and boost exports but it’s also good at creating a ripple effect through the economy. Every job in manufacturing creates 2.5 more jobs in local goods and services and every dollar invested in this sector creates $1.37 additional value elsewhere in the economy. So, whether it’s direct employment, in the supply and delivery of specialist equipment or in indirect employment – having the skills needed to deliver growth in this sector is important.

Putting the time and resources into the functional training needed to upskill and reskill workers to fill this gap should, therefore, be a priority for those in and out of the manufacturing sector.

Not solely a manufacturing issue, but key trends have emerged

Yet that doesn’t mean it’s solely a case of investing in training for the skills needed in manufacturing. Earlier this year, Third Way conducted a full analysis of the areas in which there are gaps to be plugged in the US economy.

It came to a number of conclusions – with dire shortages in the healthcare sector in particular – but also some key takeaways for those in industry.

Interestingly, these points towards key trends that explain some of the skills shortage in the US economy. Chiefly, we can see the impact of the retirement of the baby boomer generation. So, not only does this place greater strain on healthcare but it also leaves a big gap to fill in the workforce. It’s vital that businesses encourage older, more experienced employees to pass on the benefit of their experience before it is lost.

Secondly, there’s an issue when it comes to attractiveness for some industrial sectors. Do millennials see these sectors as an ideal career choice? This is where the industry needs to do more to promote itself and demonstrate the money to be earned from a long career in industry. This is a training issue too – with young people needing to be given the skills they need to get up and running.

So, while the skills shortage shouldn’t be seen through the prism of one or more sectors. It’s time to realise the importance of generational issues at play. Older, experienced workers need to be utilized – but companies also need to ensure they can groom the next generation to be fit to take up the baton when they retire. At the other end of the age spectrum, younger workers starting out need to be able to easily access the training they need to get a first foot on the career ladder – and to be able to see a reason for doing so.