Manufacturing tech with soldering tool working on technical equipment on a table

Workforce Development Helps Manufacturers Address Labor Shortage Challenges


The manufacturing skilled labor shortage has increasingly become a critical issue for the industry over the past decade. According to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), a record 522,000 jobs were left unfilled at the end of 2019. While this problem needs to be resolved through innovative approaches to recruiting employees, often overlooked is the development of existing workers.

The best way your manufacturing company can optimize your workforce is to develop the talent you already have by teaching employees new skills. We are living in challenging economic times, but the investment you make in your workers will pay off significantly when you are able to fill positions and retain skilled employees.

The pandemic has converted conferences and other training to remote learning. Don’t let that be a detriment to building the skills of your workforce. There are quality training programs available online, so make these programs a requirement. Through creative scheduling, you can reduce shift hours and apply those hours to training.

You likely already provide some degree of internal development. Determine ways you can intensify training on the use of equipment and machinery as well as learning new software and emerging technology that will keep skills sharp and contribute to overall efficiency.

Don’t overlook opportunities for cross-training. Some of your best trainers (and mentors) are experienced leaders within your workforce. In fact, you should keep succession planning top of mind. Whether it’s to fill the role of retiring workers or to fill a gap during a leave of absence, it’s vital that your employees understand what’s required to be able to work in multiple areas of your manufacturing operation. When you establish a culture of constant learning, you will become more nimble and capable of making necessary adjustments. A strategic workforce development plan will help you identify and train potential candidates who can take the reins from senior employees close to retirement age.

As you know, living with the COVID-19 pandemic is a challenge for professionals in their business and personal lives. Therefore, take all necessary measures to ensure a safe environment at work. Demonstrate empathy if an employee’s family members become ill.

When your employees are continuously learning, they tend to become more engaged and feel a sense of community within their workplace. Establish an environment where employees feel free to provide candid feedback and requests additional training. When employees know their opinions are valued, they are more likely to consider a long-term career with your company. Workforce development in manufacturing requires some upfront costs, but in the long-run, it will pay dividends in greater expertise and efficiency.