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The Imperative for Reskilling Manufacturing Workers

Manufacturing companies face a skills gap at a time when technological advances are causing a need for specialized skills. Publisher reports 68,000 open positions in the UK and 150,000 in Germany, the “manufacturing powerhouse of Europe.”

Talent needs in the industry fall into two main categories: entry-level positions such as production helpers and team assemblers, and middle-skill jobs such as welders, maintenance technicians and machinists. Adding to the challenge, the second category of jobs typically can’t be filled without some level of technical training. 

Further complicating matters, smart factory jobs are likely to require different skills than those needed for manufacturing jobs today. 

As the industry becomes more digital, there’s a misperception that robots are taking over manufacturing jobs. Despite the use of more than 2.7 million industrial robots globally, according to a Deloitte article, “humans are still needed to help produce the vast majority of goods the industry makes worldwide.” 

Companies are clearly having difficulty finding workers to fill those roles, and the labor shortage doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. A decisive 77% of manufacturers expect “ongoing difficulties in attracting and retaining workers in 2021 and beyond,” Deloitte notes.

“Without making changes to the skills composition of the workforce, manufacturers could leave up to 2.1 million jobs unfilled between 2020 and 2030, impacting everything from productivity to innovation and competitiveness to GDP [gross domestic product],” the article adds. 

Benefits of reskilling workers

The best approach for manufacturing companies to weather this storm is to reskill and upskill their current workforce with digital skills. But they shouldn’t stop there. Other skills are just as vital. “Innate human capabilities, such as conceptual thinking, decision-making, social flexibility and drive, will determine whether tomorrow’s manufacturing workforce can engage with a digital environment and drive outcomes,” Deloitte says. 

Reskilling and upskilling internal talent offers numerous organizational advantages. Among them are shorter ramp-up times, better employee engagement, higher business performance and cost savings. According to the LinkedIn Global Talent Trends 2020 report, 81% of respondents said internal recruiting improves retention, 69% said it accelerates new hire productivity and 63% said it accelerates the hiring process. 

These perks are significant, but the benefits of reskilling workers aren’t limited to businesses. Employees benefit from feeling valued, developing new skills and progressing in their careers.

Using AI to map skills and potential

Before a company can reskill and upskill its workforce, however, it has to know what skills it has in-house. It also needs to know what skills are needed for new and future jobs. An end-to-end talent lifecycle management strategy can make a significant difference in this regard. 

Talent lifecycle management keeps businesses in control of every aspect of the talent lifecycle, including acquisition strategy, talent pipelines, career advancement and internal mobility. For the internal mobility aspect, an approach like this prioritizes workers’ current skills, proficiency and goals, as well as any adaptable skills and capabilities they have from previous positions. 

As we shared in an earlier blog, “One immediate impact that this evolution will have on talent teams is the possibility of looking at talent as individuals with a living, evolving set of skills with dynamic levels of proficiency, as opposed to static collections of requirements that fit an existing open role.”

The key to successful internal mobility centers on artificial intelligence (AI), which can quickly make mountains of data into molehills. By sifting through all talent-related data at speed, AI can help talent teams swiftly identify workers’ current skills and their potential based on previous roles and interests. Talent teams can then map that information to skills needed for open roles, and AI can help create personalized skills development paths.

For this strategy to be truly effective requires a central repository of all talent-related data, a single source of truth. Having collections of data siloed across the organization will only add to the worker shortage dilemma because that disparate data can’t talk to each other, which means you can’t glean insights from it or see patterns across it. 

There’s no time to waste

Nearly 80% of manufacturing leaders surveyed by Deloitte said “not filling jobs has a moderate to very high impact on maintaining production levels to satisfy growing customer demand, responding to new market opportunities, supporting new production development and innovation, and even implementing new technologies.” 

These areas can have a domino effect on the overall growth of manufacturing companies — and on the industry as a whole. The time to act is now. The future of the manufacturing industry depends on it. 

Learn how Beamery can help manufacturing companies reskill and upskill internal talent.