Despite the exciting and innovative new technological advances that have revamped the manufacturing industry in recent years, there is still a major barrier threatening the industry’s growth.
This barrier is the widening skills gap.
Why the Gap?
With a generation of skilled workers retiring and new workers failing to engage in manufacturing careers, companies are having a difficult time finding qualified technical talent. Currently in the United States alone, there are more than half a million high-paying manufacturing jobs available. Close to 3 million Baby Boomers are expected to retire from the industry in the next decade.
According to Manpower Group’s Talent Shortage Survey, for the past four years skilled trade positions have ranked as the most difficult positions to fill. The top three reasons are:
- Candidates lack technical competencies/hard skills (48%)
- Candidates lack workplace competencies/soft skills (33%)
- Lack of/no available candidates (32%)
A large contributing factor to this serious issue is the manufacturing perception gap.
Public perception of the industry is decades behind, and manufacturing is still not recognized as the appealing high-tech industry that it has become today. This inaccurate view of the industry – with a prevailing stigma of being dirty and dangerous – is directly affecting young Millennials and deterring their interest in choosing a career in manufacturing.
Industry leaders have been fighting to change this perception through collaboration, advocacy, and educational programs. For example, Kennametal’s Young Engineers Program gives hundreds of students, parents, and teachers a new understanding of manufacturing. These industry efforts are working to rebrand manufacturing as the “new IT” — Industrial Technology.
The Executive Briefing from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Foundation suggests four significant ways to close the perception gap:
- Partnering with community colleges
- Creating apprenticeship programs
- Working with nonprofit coalition
- Making credentials portable
NOVO™ and the Skills Gap
To further close the skills gap, it is also imperative that the industry develop ways to keep and share the wealth of knowledge that older workers will be taking with them when they retire.
Kennametal has created a way to do this with NOVO™, a digital manufacturing assistant that delivers process knowledge via the cloud. With this comprehensive database of collected manufacturing and tooling knowledge, the time it takes to become productive in machining and tooling applications is shortened significantly.
NOVO also gives users an online community outlet, with constant updates in the cloud and sharing options such as exchanging jobs and exporting reports to drive collaboration. This allows users to be empowered with the right solutions specifically tailored to their operations – anytime, anywhere. NOVO enables users to apply new tools as they are designed and released. This means process planning has evolved from a ‘people knowledge’ to a digital service.
By using technology solutions to capture this critical industry knowledge, new employee training time can be reduced, and collaboration and communication can be improved. Although the manufacturing skills gap may not be an issue that can be fixed overnight, knowledge management solutions, such as NOVO, have the ability to drive positive progress to address this major issue.