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The Changing Face of Manufacturing: Why Skilled Technical Talent Is the Key to Growth and How to Win the Race for That Talent

Rebekah Kowalski
Apr 19, 2022 8:45:59 PM

Manufacturing has changed — and it continues to change — opening up new opportunities for the skilled technical talent that will power the modern manufacturing floor. Driving the speed and scope of manufacturing evolution is: 

  • 5G wireless tech 
  • Industrial IoT (Internet of Things) 
  • The coming of Industry 5.0 
  • Smart factories 
  • Robotics 

The global industrial automation market is projected to grow from $191.74 billion in 2021 to $355.44 billion in 2028 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.2 percent in forecast period.  

Employer surveys and industry and government reports have raised concerns that the nation may not have an adequate supply of skilled technical workers to achieve its competitiveness and economic growth objectives in the 21st Century.  

What skills are needed most? 

Skilled technical occupations are those that power the modern manufacturing floor through digital, automation and sustainability technologies. Skilled Technical talent is the bridge between manufacturing processes and high-end digital capabilities, possessing expertise in manufacturing processes, electro-mechanical skills, and digital technology. 

Of the fastest growing manufacturing occupations in the next 10 years, 5 out of the 6 require a skill set that spans human and technical aspects but often do not require post-secondary education.  

Examples: 

  • Instrumentation/automation/controls technicians 
  • Industrial and manufacturing technicians 
  • Engineering and electrical technicians 

A couple of areas that are especially in need of Skilled Technical talent: 

  • Operational technology (OT): Manufacturing is one of the biggest targets for cyber attacks. In most organizations, the policies and service agreements to manage IT systems do not extend to the operational technology environment, creating a security and management gap. Operational technicians and cyber security system operators bridge the gap between OT and IT to help prevent cyber attacks.  
  • Environmental technicians: As the move toward sustainability grows and technology is increasingly a part of managing interactions with the environment, more blended technical and environmental knowledge is needed. As all industries begin to feel the need for more sustainable products and practices, modernized environmental technicians will be another high-demand skilled technical role. We’ve been seeing a talent shortage in the Skilled Tech area since before the pandemic, and it’s not easing up yet.  

Note: We’re putting the finishing touches on a sustainable workforce report now. Sign up to receive our emails to be one of the first to receive it when it’s complete. 

The risks of not having the right people with the right skills 
  • Increased turnover. Assigning tasks to workers who are under- or over-qualified to do them is highly likely to impact turnover. And turnover is amplified further when you don’t have the right people in the right roles due to possible attrition of overworked staff.  
  • Increased workforce costs. Not having the right skilled people in place can lead to longer fill times, increased costs from talent acquisition and overtime pay, and more. This all impacts your bottom line. 
  • Missed production quotas – either due to inefficiency or turnover vacancies. 
  • Unmet long-term goals towards digital transformation 
  • Mismatch with today’s supply chain. Supply chain disruptions require more resiliency and agility — both of which are enabled by automation.
  • A lost opportunity. Other organizations are quickly snapping up non-college-bound, technically oriented early career workers; these workers may no longer be there when you need them. 
How to win the race for talent 

Though the talent shortage may be starting to correct itself in some industries, there is still an ongoing shortage of Skilled Technical workers in Manufacturing. Employers are taking a multi-source strategy, leveraging their relationships with tech schools and high schools as well as investing in their own training programs to build a pipeline of talent. Taking a diversified approach to building a portfolio of skilled technical talent is an excellent first step. 

But, as is the case with any talent shortage, manufacturing leaders need to have their ear to the ground regarding what workers want now and what they will want in the future. The good news is that many people are attracted to jobs that are perceived as ‘high tech’ and ‘digital’ —and that’s precisely what these are. Leading with that in your attraction and recruitment efforts is sure to pay dividends. In addition to better pay and flexibility in scheduling, our research shows [link] that individuals are looking for employers who will invest in their development and who are clear about the wider purpose of the work. Being bullish about upskilling and career pathways in your attraction campaigns will serve you well in the short-term and in the longer-term as talent seeks to growth with you. And on the point of purpose... for so many, the process of creating things on the manufacturing floor and being a ‘maker’ fulfills that need; whatever your higher purpose is in your business, make sure that your attraction campaign reflects that.  

In a highly competitive market, many organizations are finding the greatest value in direct hire for securing employees for their Skilled Technical roles. Ensuring they are designing the job, the short- and long-term career path, and the benefits in an attractive manner that addresses what workers are looking for today gives them an even greater competitive advantage when seeking this highly sought-after skilled talent. For some specific ideas, watch our recorded webinar, How to Recruit, Retain, and Grow Women in Manufacturing and Technology and read The Future Factory, Mapping the Skills that Will Power Manufacturing

 A partner can help 

To ensure a competitive advantage in advanced manufacturing, you need a plan and, better yet, a partner to assess your needs and move forward. Manpower Skilled Technical is here to help you thrive during a time of rapid evolution. We are leading the way in creating in-demand talent through our advanced manufacturing career pathways and Academy of Advanced Manufacturing, our partnership with Rockwell Automation. This complimentary 12-week course prepares military veterans for a career in advanced manufacturing.  

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