Over the years we have often written about the manufacturing skills gap and its long-range impacts on the industry. In August 2022, the industry had 795,000 job openings. Why are there so many openings? According to study findings by the industry and Deloitte, there’s a persistent mismatch in structural skills. The industry also continues to be plagued by old perceptions, making it challenging to attract new workers to manufacturing.

Knowing that manufacturing companies are increasingly competing with other sectors for skilled labor, it’s time for a new approach. This comes in the form of an extensive and forward-looking study conducted by The Manufacturing Institute, the workforce development and education partner of the National Association of Manufacturers, in partnership with Rockwell Automation and PTC software. The study titled Future Skill Needs in Manufacturing: A Deep Dive, shared predictions on where they believe the industry is headed over the next decade and how these changes will impact the industry.

Four different industries within the manufacturing industry were considered in the research. These included electric vehicles and battery production, semiconductors, pharmaceuticals and logistics. Sustainability and ESG, hot topics for many industries, also played a role in the report.

Not surprisingly, employee skill sets will also play a critical role. The study found both new and existing employees will need to possess advanced data and tech skill sets. These employees will not only need to be well-versed in operating machines that generate a lot of data, but they also will need to be adept at analyzing the data. So-called soft skills of written and verbal communication and collaboration will also be needed skills. When hiring, companies will need to look for new hires who are technologically savvy as well as good communicators, according to the report.

With this in mind, it will be important for companies to know what they possess in their current workforce. Skills assessment could be in the form of semi-structured conversations or questionnaires. Once in place, it’s time to see how those skills can be shared. This is where good communication skills come in handy. Skill sharing could be in the form of reciprocal mentoring between junior and senior members of the staff.

Knowing skills and skills transfer will continue to be a priority, businesses will need to earmark funds for training in order to continuously grow and develop employees in-house. The nice thing is that companies don’t have to do all of this on their own. This is an opportunity to seek out educational partnerships and other ways to integrate classroom instruction and relevant work experiences.

When looking at new talent, the study suggests it could be advantageous to look beyond a traditional degree and consider equivalent experience and certifications as an alternative. A productive hiring pipeline could include high schools, trade schools and two- and four-year colleges. While each company’s path will be unique, it will be important for all to invest in employees and their skills in order to remain competitive and resilient.