While the United States waits to see if the predictions for a manufacturing renaissance come to pass, the industry is facing a potential shortage of skilled labor over the next decade. Bloomberg Businessweek reports that America’s manufacturing sector is predicted to add 2.5-5 million new jobs before the end of the decade, but according to the article, 5 of the 50 largest manufacturing centers (Baton Rouge, Charlotte, Miami, San Antonio, and Wichita) have a significant shortage in skilled labor.
While the issue does not pose an immediate threat to an impending manufacturing revival, the gap is expected to widen as older, skilled laborers reach retirement age. There appears to be some reluctance to hire and train young workers to replace those who will be leaving the field, mostly due to the current state of the economy. There is a “wait-and-see” attitude that is being reinforced in part by the recent rise in supply chain management solutions, inventory management software, and warehouse management systems, which are supporting operations well enough without many additional hires. However, if forecasts are correct, the incoming manufacturing boom will quickly require more hands…and fast.
Beyond the shortage due to hiring freezes and the exit of older, skilled laborers, rampant outsourcing of American manufacturing jobs over the last several decades has created a sort of “lost generation” of skilled manufacturing workers. Undoubtedly, a manufacturing resurgence on American soil will resolve this, but cultivating skill takes time, creating a level of uncertainty over how smoothly this revival will progress.
Businessweek reports that the occupations in most dire need of additional skilled labor are welders, machinists and industrial machinery mechanics.