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Skills Gap Analysis: Bridging the Generational Gap in Manufacturing

Skills Gap Analysis

By: Dan Johnson

The American economic landscape is transforming rapidly and the kind of work Americans do has changed significantly within just a generation. In 1950 30 percent of all US jobs were in manufacturing, but by 2015 a mere 9 percent of the workforce was employed in factories or assembly plants.

Today, over half of American industrial manufacturing CEOs are worried about finding workers with the necessary skills and desire to fill modern manufacturing jobs. The majority of American teens say they have no interest in a manufacturing career and every year over half a million skilled jobs go unfilled for want of workers with the proper training in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Fortunately, skills gap analysis has shown there’s a solution to this critical problem.

Enterprise resources planning (ERP) technology has evolved over recent decades to become an established manufacturing tool that can help bridge the skills gap. Over-40 Baby Boomer workers such as senior managers and skilled machinists with expertise gained through experience (often called “tribal knowledge”) have become used to working with software and can use collaborative tools to share that knowledge with younger employees.

Younger workers between the ages of 20 and 30 (often referred to as “Millennials”) are more likely to be college-educated with less hands-on experience and less patience for old-school processes that may have worked for their parents and grandparents. These employees are, by and large, more comfortable with technology and can use software such as modern ERP solutions to quickly get up to speed on best practices and obtain critical historical data for reference and training. 

In fact, appropriate, highly-usable software is a critical factor influencing job satisfaction for Millennials. Skills gap analysis has revealed that workers between 18-35 years old are twice as likely to leave a company when they are frustrated with the usability of software.

However, modern technology, properly implemented and integrated into the manufacturing process, helps recruit and retain new workers. Manufacturing -- once viewed as a dark, dirty, and dangerous industry -- is being transformed by a new era of innovation. Three emerging trends are providing new hope for skilled manufacturing in the United States: 

Technology engagement is increasing
55 percent of manufacturing employees now use ERP and 63 percent use it when deployed in the cloud. Technology use is becoming ubiquitous.

The workforce is going mobile
54 percent of plant supervisors are now receiving real-time information through mobile devices.

Optimism is growing
71 percent of manufacturing CEOs say they are optimistic about the future, despite present concerns. A new focus on technology and training, combined with federal initiatives designed to prepare 100,000 new STEM teachers to teach the next generation of engineers and technicians are giving manufacturing owners and operators new hope.