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Manufacturers must address skills gap to realize growth: report


Just as the U.S. jobless rate hits a five-year low, and companies project stronger growth, manufacturers are in danger of losing out on the upswing because of a lackadaisical recruitment and rebranding effort, according to research from ThomasNet.com.

A recent ThomasNet.com Industry Market Barometer (IMB) survey shows a troubling trend in the manufacturing industry: Despite an upward trajectory (63 per cent — nearly two-thirds of the survey’s 1,029 manufacturing respondents — expect to grow in 2013), companies are not attracting Generation Y (18-32 years old) candidates to replace retiring Baby Boomers fast enough. With this generation projected to make up 75 per cent of the workforce by 2025, manufacturers need an aggressive plan to bring them in and teach them the business. Yet, eight out of 10 respondents report that Generation Y represents a very small fraction of their employee base, and most don’t see that changing soon. The results surface a serious disconnect — manufacturers acknowledge there is a problem, but are not taking sufficient action to tackle it.

“North American manufacturing could be knocked out of its long-held, global leadership position if companies fail to attract enough people to keep up with increasing customer demand. They may even reverse some of the gains they have made bringing manufacturing jobs back from overseas. Long-term, a lack of attention to workforce-related issues will negatively impact the economy, as well as their businesses,” said Paul Gerbino, publisher, ThomasNet News.

Part of the problem, according to Gerbino, is that many Millennials are either unaware of manufacturing as a career opportunity, or see this career as undesirable. At a time when 3D printing, robotics and other advances are making manufacturing a “hot technology sector,” they still see these jobs as “dirty, rote, grease under their fingernails positions,” he noted.

Indeed, nearly three-quarters of the IMB respondents believe that negative perceptions of the manufacturing profession are preventing younger people from joining forces with them. This comes at a time when more than 40 per cent say they are hiring for positions ranging from engineering to production management.

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“It’s no exaggeration to say that North American manufacturers could soon be hitting a glass ceiling of their own making. They need to become advocates for their profession, and inject the ‘cool factor’ back into manufacturing. We are seeing great examples of companies that are taking matters into their own hands and doing just that, and their colleagues need a jumpstart,” he added.

ThomasNet.com just launched a new job board to provide these manufacturers with support. This employment and career-building website focuses exclusively on four key areas of industry: engineering, procurement, manufacturing/production operations, and sales/marketing. Entry-level job seekers and seasoned professionals alike can go there to search, qualify and apply for manufacturing positions posted by employers across North America. Conversely, CEOs/general managers, human resources professionals and recruiters can quickly build a pool of well-qualified candidates who meet detailed, technologically specific job requirements and who are more likely to succeed in the available positions.

Visit thomasnetjobs.com for more information. For a free copy of the Industry Market Barometer report, visit thomasnet.com/imb.