One of the top challenges US manufacturers face today is the widening skills gap. The numbers are astounding: US manufacturing is expected to grapple with upward of 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030. Three years ago, the industry was already facing historically low employment rates. Now, amid a global pandemic and the first US recession in more than a decade, leaders are scrambling for ways to attract skilled talent to retain and grow manufacturing industry diversity.
In 2020, the pandemic erased ~1.4 million US manufacturing jobs, reversing more than a decade of job gains. Though the manufacturing industry was able to hire back 820,000 of these employees by the end of the year, the remaining 570,000 members of the manufacturing workforce haven’t returned. In the past six months, nearly 500,000 positions have remained unfilled. The question is, why?
Our latest report highlights several nuanced challenges particular to today’s increasingly digital environment and points to key issues in sourcing, training and retaining manufacturing workforce talent that may explain this gap–and why finding diverse talent is harder today than it’s ever been.
As digital transformation in the manufacturing industry continues to evolve, the skills needed to work in “smart” factories are changing. These disruptions further widen the talent gap in two ways: first, by challenging existing roles, and second, by narrowing the candidate pool to those with the necessary licenses and certifications to run complex digital programming. Companies must consider how to guide their workforce through this massive digital transformation. Without careful attention, organisational agility will likely remain a critical challenge for manufacturers in the coming years. It could also require a shift away from overly specific requirements toward a broader portfolio of skills that will remain applicable as job descriptions continue to evolve.
Focusing overtly on digital skills alone won’t solve the broader gap in the industry workforce, though. Innate human capabilities, such as conceptual thinking, decision-making, social flexibility, and drive will determine whether tomorrow’s manufacturing workforce can engage with a digital environment and drive positive outcomes.
Another intrinsically human factor in manufacturing industry diversity? Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Our 2021 Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute Manufacturing Talent study also explains how building a manufacturing workforce management strategy that prioritises DEI will be pivotal to bolstering the talent pipeline and maintaining a diverse talent pool.
Manufacturing industry diversity: Why is it important?
It’s simple demographic arithmetic: Organisations cannot have a robust talent strategy without a robust DEI strategy. The manufacturing industry is already aware of this, as DEI has made its way to the top of the industry’s list of priorities. In fact, manufacturing companies of all sizes are taking the National Association of Manufacturers’ Pledge for Action in the industry by 2030: a commitment to taking 50,000 tangible actions to increase equity and parity for underrepresented communities, creating 300,000 pathways to job opportunities for Black people and all people of color.
However, fostering manufacturing diversity must not be limited to recruiting diverse talent and mandating organisation-wide trainings. Organisations must also focus on building an inclusive culture, actively dismantling oppressive systems, fostering growth opportunities and pathways to careers, and embracing these values at every level of the organisation.
Every manufacturer can take steps today to build a better workforce that’s capable of delivering manufacturing excellence tomorrow. Read our full report to learn more.