How to Overcome the Talent Shortage Crisis in the Manufacturing Sector?

A worker and his apprentice examining their work - Pearson TalentLens

According to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), nearly three-quarters of manufacturing executives believe that attracting and retaining a quality workforce is their main challenge. The talent shortage affects many industrial groups, with 10 million jobs vacant in the sector worldwide.


Origins and Consequences of the Talent Shortage in the Manufacturing Industry

The talent shortage can be attributed to several factors:

  • Aging Workforce: 51% of jobs in the manufacturing sector are held by employees aged 45 to 65 or older. Experienced workers are retiring, and few young talents are stepping in to replace them.
  • Lack of Interest in Manufacturing Careers: The manufacturing industry suffers from a negative image associated with low-paying jobs and difficult working conditions. Only 14% of Generation Z members consider a career in the industrial sector for these reasons.
  • Evolving Technologies and Required Skills: Automation and the adoption of advanced technologies (Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, 3D printing, robotics) are changing the nature of work in manufacturing. Jobs are becoming more specialized, requiring advanced technical and general skills.
  • Inadequate Education and Training: Training and education programs in the industrial sector are not always aligned with labor market needs, leading to a gap between available skills and those required by employers.
  • Production Offshoring: The relocation of production to low-cost labor countries has reduced the number of manufacturing jobs in some developed countries and made the sector less attractive.


Consequences for Manufacturing Companies

 The talent shortage has significant repercussions for manufacturing companies:

  • Decreased Productivity: With fewer skilled workers available, factories struggle to maintain their usual production levels, affecting production timelines, delivery schedules, and customer satisfaction.
  • Recruitment and Retention Difficulties: Manufacturers find it hard to recruit and retain qualified workers, leading to prolonged vacancies, decreased productivity, and increased costs (loss of revenue, recruitment, and training expenses).
  • Increased Labor Costs: To attract and retain skilled workers, wages and benefits are raised, increasing overall labor costs.
  • Increased Dependence on Automation: Facing employee shortages, many manufacturers invest in automation, which requires significant capital investment and skilled human resources for proper deployment.
  • Safety and Quality Risks: A lack of workers to perform critical tasks (equipment maintenance, quality control) increases the risk of safety incidents or product quality decline.


Strategies to Attract and Retain Talent in the Manufacturing Sector

 Manufacturers can use these strategies to attract and retain skilled workers:

  • Offer Attractive Working Conditions: Provide fair and competitive salaries, appealing benefits, merit-based reward programs, and flexible work options.
  • Provide Training and Personal Development Programs: Help employees acquire new skills and advance in their careers.
  • Promote a Safe and Healthy Work Environment: Ensure the well-being and safety of employee.
  • Foster a Positive Company Culture: Value, respect, and include employees to enhance their satisfaction and engagement.


Best Practices for Developing Manufacturing Team Skills

Here are some effective methods to develop employees' skills in the manufacturing industry:

  • Mentorship and Apprenticeship Programs: Encourage skill transfer and create a collaborative working environment between experienced workers and new recruits.
  • Innovative Training: Utilize online and on-demand learning platforms, augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR) tools for immersive, real-world scenario training.
  • Certifications and Retraining Programs: Enable workers to develop new skills or specialize in manufacturing fields.
  • Continuous Improvement and Innovation Projects: Include identifying and solving workplace issues, proposing, and implementing new ideas and technologies.
  • Skills Analysis Tools: Evaluate employees' current technical and general skills, identify gaps, and develop personalized training plans to acquire necessary skills. Internationally recognized for over 60 years, the Bennett Mechanical Comprehension Test II (BMCT-II) is particularly recommended in the manufacturing industry to assess mechanical understanding. It evaluates the ability to understand and apply basic mechanical and physical concepts, and the key principles behind the operation, maintenance, and repair of machines. It is suitable for a wide range of professions in mechanics, production, and maintenance, helping to analyze a candidate's or employee's knowledge and logical abilities, and identify those with good spatial perception, mechanical reasoning skills, and an aptitude for learning mechanical processes and tasks.


The rapid pace of technological innovation in the manufacturing sector is widening the skills gap. More and more entry-level and intermediate jobs require technical and general skills. It is crucial to identify, evaluate, and develop these skills within the workforce to overcome the talent shortage.