The skills gap continues to widen and is expected to endure, according to the latest skills gap study conducted by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute (2018). These findings were based on a survey of more than 400 US manufacturers, interviews with manufacturing industry executives, economic predictions by Deloitte’s economics team and analysis of secondary data. While just a few years ago manufacturers saw the retirement of baby boomers as the biggest reason for the skills gap, opinion has shifted. The gap is being attributed to the rapid rise of advanced technology and automation in the workplace.
Manufacturers see great benefit in adopting robotics, cobots, AI and machine learning, but they are finding that these technologies require employees with particular skills and aptitudes. While the design and engineering phases of manufacturing will increasingly call for job candidates with STEM degrees, the production side of manufacturing will see its own growing need for technology-savvy employees.
Here’s a quick take on the top five skills and qualities that manufacturing executives believe will be most important in the next few years.
In an environment filled with integrated and interacting technology, tools and robotics, employees with the ability to think critically will be increasingly valuable. Manufacturing plants, no matter how well designed, will not run without human oversight. Critical thinking is necessary, for example, to monitor quality control. When quality lapses, astute thinking is required to troubleshoot, identify the source and reason for the lapse, and take the right action to remedy the problem.
As manufacturing itself leans on automation and computerization as work horses on the production floor, employees have their own sets of digital tools upon which to rely. Company-specific social media, messaging and texting apps are some of the digital tools commonly in use in every line of work. Manufacturers who have implemented these types of productivity and communication methods will need to place digital skills high on the list of must-haves for new employees.
Technology and computer skills
The day-to-day in manufacturing relies on an infrastructure of computer-based functions. Computerized platforms for things like timekeeping, communications, job tracking, supplies management, calendaring and scheduling, learning management and inter-department collaboration are all commonplace. New employees must arrive with an understanding of the more ubiquitous software and technologies, and with an interest and aptitude for learning industry- or company-specific packages.
The programming requirements of manufacturers might not call for employees capable of creating advanced algorithms or complex, nested subroutines. But the CNC machines, robots, cobots and lights-out operations found in many plants do call for basic programming skills as well as the methodical, meticulous, patient and persistent mindset often associated with programmers.
Aptitude with tools and techniques
Lest anyone think that manufacturing has gone entirely cerebral and totally computerized – and therefore with no need for the mechanically inclined – the Deloitte/Manufacturing Institute study points out that there is still a strong need for employees with an affinity for mechanics, along with an aptitude for using tools and applying techniques.
To read the 2018 Skills Gap Report by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, visit http://www.themanufacturinginstitute.org/Research/Skills-Gap-in-Manufacturing/Skills-Gap-in-Manufacturing.aspx.