What to Do About the Manufacturing Talent Shortage

At this point, we’ve all heard it all, but here’s the reality: there’s a manufacturing talent shortage, and it’s happening now. 

“People don’t want to work.” “There aren’t any good jobs.” “We can’t find anyone qualified.” 

At this point, we’ve heard it all, but here’s the reality: there’s a manufacturing talent shortage, and it’s happening now. 

It’s not just industry executives focusing on this issue either. A recent poll on our LinkedIn page showed that, of the 108 respondents, 46 percent predict a lack of qualified talent will be the biggest struggle the machine tool industry will encounter in 2022.

Figuring out how to wade through and navigate the talent pool during a time of such scarcity could be one of the biggest challenges facing the manufacturing industry in 2022.

We recognize it’s here, but what is this talent shortage really doing to affect us?

Well, it goes beyond general worry. This isn’t one of those statistics that’s brought up but doesn’t feel like it has any real-world significance.

We’ve already seen shortages within manufacturing. As of mid-2021, 54 percent of manufacturers reported having trouble finding the right talent for their open positions. The long-term outlook seems similarly bleak: roughly 2.1 million skilled manufacturing jobs could go unfilled through 2030.

This isn’t a pandemic-era issue set to be resolved once there is a collective overcoming of Covid-19. In the early days of the pandemic, U.S. manufacturing lost roughly 1.4 million jobs, but the industry has largely recovered from those early days. Now, manufacturing is struggling to fill current openings with executives reporting hiring as significantly more difficult than even 2018.

There is a consequential and immediate need for manufacturing talent across all levels and verticals, but there simply isn’t the labor supply needed to fill these in-demand positions.

What do we do about it? How do we overcome these hiring issues?

There’s not necessarily an immediate fix.

However, and thankfully, we have two things on our side: options and time. Although long-term projections don’t currently look great, there are ways to mitigate at least part of these issues by working on the underlying issues creating this talent shortage.

Roughly 4.5 million people quit their jobs in November 2021. Obviously, they weren’t all from the manufacturing sector, but they do share some of the varying reasons for leaving their positions. From early retirement to restrictive hiring criteria to wage and benefit issues, there are myriad reasons why many Americans are reassessing and leaving their current positions.

The first step to overcoming the manufacturing talent shortage is understanding the reasons behind it. This takes not only an understanding of the societal issues at play—for instance, the ones listed above—but also a review of your own organization and practices.

The machine tool and manufacturing industries lack the luxury of remote work, but there are ways to make your organization more desirable to the empowered group of skilled labor needed to fill these critical openings.

Whether that’s a reorganization of your wage structures, an increase in schedule flexibility, or something else entirely, a lot of it comes down to making adjustments and committing to careful and genuine internal reflection. 

Those who effectively make adjustments after taking the time to better understand their organization and internal processes will come out ahead of these hiring issues. Those who don’t may find themselves drowning in an increasingly shallow talent pool.

Navigating the manufacturing talent shortage is no easy task, but it doesn’t have to be overly difficult. Swift Placement and Consulting leverages our 30-plus years of industry experience to help those in the machine tool and manufacturing industries overcome their hiring problems. Reach out today to see how we can put our expertise to work for you.