Workforce Skills Gap Threatens Reshoring of Supply Chains Critical to U.S. Economic and National Security
Global disruption and geopolitical risk created by black swan events like the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine resulted in unstable global supply chains and shortages of essential goods. These unpredictable disturbances spotlighted the need to invest in reshoring essential product ecosystems. Overcoming the manufacturing workforce skills-gap is critical to this effort.
Unfilled industry jobs are estimated to escalate to 2.1 million skilled jobs by 2030. Forty-five percent of manufacturing executives surveyed have already turned down business opportunities due to lack of workers. We must resolve the skills gap in order to reshore supply chains that are crucial to U.S. national and economic security.
Building a Comprehensive Workforce
It is fundamentally important that U.S. manufacturers engage a wider, more diverse labor pool by increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI); add flexibility models to attract and retain talent; overcome misperceptions of manufacturing careers; re-skill and up-skill existing workers; and adopt public-private partnerships to provide training that aligns with the needs of business and industry.
Simply put, we must train a larger and more diverse skilled workforce. And, to keep up with the pace of technological change, companies should consider ongoing training initiatives—in other words, lifelong learning.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Women in manufacturing are a prime DEI example. Although women make up 47% of the total workforce, they make up only about 30% of the the people employed in manufacturing industries. Manufacturers would be wise to tap into this highly educated labor pool who earn more than half of the associate, undergraduate and graduate degrees awarded in the U.S.
Introducing flexibility in manufacturing work models can expand and diversify the talent pipeline. Implementing flexible work models such as part-time or reduced hours, flextime, compressed workweeks, hybrid work, or job sharing will result in higher employee engagement and increased productivity.
Manufacturing Career Misperceptions; Recruitment Is Key
I believe overcoming two common manufacturing misperceptions is key to recruitment. First, training versus degrees: Multiple government websites show income as a function of the number of degrees, while failing to mention that an apprentice graduate has an income similar to a four-year university graduate. I convinced the Labor Department to change one page but there are many more online. This data is the basis for the unrelenting societal pressure to go to college.
Second, we need to change the misperception that manufacturing careers are dark, dirty, dangerous, dead-end, and declining (the “5Ds”). Conditions have dramatically improved. To overcome these misperceptions and attract more young workers, the industry needs to demonstrate that modern manufacturing is a high-skilled, high-tech, high-paying, stable career choice. By promoting the success of reshoring, we overcome the “declining” issue.
Re-skilling and Up-skilling
Many manufacturing jobs now require higher-tech skills to support advanced manufacturing, automation, robotics, and the Internet of Things (IoT), all of which increase productivity, drive innovation and boost U.S. competitiveness. New methods of training are emerging. For example, Industry 4.0 is improving training and safety conditions through remote experts, 3D work instructions, augmented reality, real-time monitoring, and more.
Aerospace giant, Lockheed Martin, has embraced MR (mixed reality) headsets for training, manufacturing, and assembly. Officials said that MR boosted productivity while saving time and money.
Various public/private partnerships align workforce training with industry needs. Following are a few partnerships, companies, and training initiatives that are collaborating to close the manufacturing skills gap.
The Manufacturing USA network is comprised of 16 institutes with ongoing workforce development initiatives that work with educational institutions and industry to define new careers for automation, robotics, AI, and data analytics.
The U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the AFL-CIO recently announced the launch of a national workforce development strategy for lithium-battery manufacturing. The $5-million investment will support workforce training programs in energy and automotive communities in an effort to bolster the domestic battery supply chain.
The National Tooling and Machining Association (NTMA) is recognized by the Department of Labor as an Apprenticeship Ambassador, focusing on filling the skills gap through access to training and educational resources that are industry-backed, industry-tested, and industry-proven. Offerings provide tools from pre-hire testing to training. The pre-apprenticeship program is designed to develop entry-level skills. NTMA-U is a fully online educational program that provides both the related instruction for a machinist apprenticeship and specific incumbent worker training.
The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), a nonprofit association of professionals, educators, and students, creates opportunities to help advance today’s workforce and develop the next generation of manufacturing professionals.
The Center for Manufacturing Advancement (CMA) is a Virginia state-funded project at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR). The new training center will offer hands-on training in the defense industry.
“There has never really been a program designed like this to take someone that walks off the streets that may have never been exposed to welding or machinery or anything and then in four months be able to walk in and get an attractive job with a salary that supports themselves and their families,” said IALR President Telly Tucker.
A workforce development program is part of Intel Corporation’s $20 billion commitment to build two new chip factories in Ohio. The tech giant is investing $100 million over the next decade to support U.S. education, research, and workforce development. An additional $50 million will be provided by the U.S. National Science Foundation for grant funding over the next decade.
Reshoring and Recruiting
Continued reshoring success requires a stronger and larger workforce to increase capacity and competitiveness. By reshoring and not offshoring, your company demonstrates loyalty to employees and community. You will receive more loyalty (retention) in return.
We have unlimited control over our domestic-competitiveness initiatives and our ability to achieve our ambitions. Let’s collaborate to support skilled workforce development and rebuild the U.S. manufacturing base. For help or to help, contact me at (847) 867-1144 or firstname.lastname@example.org. CS