What is the skills gap, and how do we overcome it?

As American companies such as us here at Keystone Threaded Products Company, bring more manufacturing jobs back to America in the reshoring efforts, challenges have sprung up.  And as our economy is trying to recover from the 2008 recession, employment in the skills gap is shifting.  One of the major challenges have become the obvious in recent years is the skills gap, and small businesses are struggling to find employees whose skills match their industry needs.

What is the skills gap?

The skills gap is the space between the skills that are needed for daily manufacturing work, and the skills that exist in the current workforce.  This leads to skilled workers going on without jobs, and manufacturing jobs left unfilled.  The skills gap has an impact on small businesses, since they do not have the same resources as larger corporations to spend money on recruiting skilled workers.  This also has an impact on the economy as small businesses account for two thirds of new jobs.  Estimates place the number of jobs that are empty due to lack in skills gap at nearly half of a million jobs.

Why does the skills gap exist?

There are a number of reasons the skills gap has developed.  The growth in demand increases year in and year out, while the baby boomer generation, which is well-trained in manufacturing skills, continues to age and retire.  Another reason is that, while prospective workers are gaining skills, they aren’t the skills needed for necessary job functions – workers needed basic math and computer abilities.  Nowadays, corporations are investing more on capital and modernized machinery – where the skills of the trade are no longer needed, since modern CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines can be programmed to produce a part.

How do we overcome the skills gap?

The best way to address the skills gap is for manufacturers to turn to the younger generation and demonstrate to them that manufacturing is no longer a dark, dirty segment of the economy.  It is now a technology-driven and is a fine alternative to a four-year college degree, with competitive wages and cleaner work environment, also with room to move up the ladder and become a shop manager.  As well as in the manufacturing industry every day is a new challenge, as products and manufacturing is constantly changing.  And the skills in the manufacturing industry are gained through experience, since some newer machines cannot perform the functions to produce complex machining. Manufacturing is an art form; the complexity cannot be done by machines alone, and need the skilled, human touch.

Many industries are doing this already, with manufacturers’ small and large working with local community and local schools to develop technical programs and educate students on the viability of a career in the manufacturing field. Many companies are also offering apprenticeships for those interesting in the field, but haven’t yet chosen a specialty as well as on-the-job training. This can help create a new generation of workers who can be part of the manufacturing sector for generations to come.  One of the biggest problems is retaining those workers that are trained, and being able to have them teach the younger generation their experiences.  Unfortunately with such competition for trained workers, they constantly have offers of work.

At Keystone Threaded Products Company, we see that filling the skills gap is necessary to the health and growth of the American manufacturing sector moving forward.  Closing this gap will help our economy grow and succeed, and set a foundation for decades to come.  If you are interested in helping to close this gap, get in touch with us or with our local resources including vocational schools and manufacturers alike that are looking for workers.

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