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CNA Blog — From the Experts
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CNA Blog — From the Experts

Published Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Two Ways Manufacturers Can Start Closing the Skills Gap

Today's manufacturing industry is facing a skills gap. Over the next decade, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will likely need to be filled, and 2 million of those jobs are expected to remain unfilled due to the skills gap1. Moreover, 84 percent of executives agree there is a talent shortage in U.S. manufacturing2.

Why? The retirement of baby boomers and lack of attractiveness of the industry are ranked among the leading factors impacting this talent shortage3.

Bottom line: Manufacturing companies are struggling to find enough workers of a higher skill level who will help grow their operations. As you can imagine, this is quite frustrating for a lot of medium to small businesses who lose skilled workers to larger corporations. But there are actions company leaders can take to deepen the pool of valuable talent. These actions can be found in two potential solutions – one short term and one long term.

The Short-term Solution: Work with What You Have 
Train employees from other disciplines or branches that have a high aptitude and will be able to learn the skills necessary to help your business succeed.

What skills, specifically? According to the 2015 Skills Gap Report published by the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, the following skills are necessary for manufacturing professionals:

  • Technical
  • Computer
  • Problem solving
  • STEM-related (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)

These skills need to be taught and/or enhanced to both current and incoming talent to help close the skills gap. This can be done by building effective, integrated training strategies, led by highly skilled managers, to create high-performing teams.

The Long-term Solution: Connect with Future Professionals Today  
There are many initiatives to get students, recent grads and young professionals interested in the manufacturing segment, such as Nuts, Bolts, and Thingamajigs, which offers manufacturing summer camps and scholarships and is the charitable foundation of The Foundation of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association (FMA), which works to holistically improve the metal processing, forming and fabricating industry.

FMA co-produces Manufacturing Day (MFG Day), a national movement dedicated to addressing common misperceptions about manufacturing by giving manufacturers an opportunity to open their doors and show, in a coordinated effort, what modern manufacturing is. This celebration officially occurs the first Friday in October.

These initiatives are designed to inspire future generations of manufacturers with the hopes of leading to an increased pipeline of skilled workers. Visit to see how your organization can get involved and to access educational resources you can use to inspire the younger workforce to pursue careers in manufacturing.

By partnering with educational institutions to host tours of your facilities, participate in classrooms and even mentor students, you and other manufacturing businesses can collectively help expand the pool. For example, to generate more excitement about business education in high school students, Barrington High School (Illinois) reached out to local business leaders in 2014 to establish a Business Incubator Startup course4. In this course, students work in groups to come up with a product or service idea, then work with local business leaders to research, develop and eventually pitch their ideas to investors. The business leaders serve as mentors and guide the students through the real-world process of creating, developing and validating a business plan.

Managers and executives have reason to be concerned about their companies' long-term success, as there are too many jobs and too few qualified candidates. But manufacturing companies are likely to see this skills gap shrink as they become more involved in education and training. Together, manufactures, government and educational leaders can mitigate this skills gap over time.

Follow CNA on Facebook and Twitter on MFG Day, the first Friday in October.

1 Skills Gap in Manufacturing Infographic, accessed Aug. 15, 2016
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.
4 Closing the Skills Gap, Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, accessed Aug. 15, 2016


Additional Resources


One or more of the CNA companies provide the products and/or services described. The information is intended to present a general overview for illustrative purposes only. Read CNA’s General Disclaimer.
One or more of the CNA companies provide the products and/or services described. The information is intended to present a general overview for illustrative purposes only. Read CNA’s General Disclaimer.
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