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U.S. Manufacturers Attempting to Upskill Their Workforces

As manufacturers rapidly adopt new technologies, they are increasingly faced with the problem of hiring and/or training workers who can help them to exploit these technologies. PwC’s latest survey explores this issue.

Q3 2016
In June, PwC released the results of a survey on talent in the manufacturing industry and how U.S. manufacturers are preparing to attract a new generation of workers. The survey of 120 U.S. manufacturers, which was conducted in cooperation with the Manufacturing Institute, reveals that manufacturers have either already begun to develop a talent pipeline necessary to harness new and disruptive manufacturing technology — e.g., 3D printing, robotics, IoT — or are ramping up their efforts to do so.

According to the survey results, only 33 percent of manufacturers say they have little or no difficulty in hiring talent to exploit advanced technology, while 44 percent have moderate difficulty. However, 31 percent who say they see no skills shortage now believe one will occur over the next three years, and another 29 percent say there is a skills shortage now and it will be even more acute over the next three years.

When asked if advanced technology will affect their number of employees, 45 percent of the PwC survey-takers say it will not. In fact, 38 percent anticipate hiring additional workers to manage all the new technologies. These workers will come from the Millennial generation (born 1981 to 1997) and from Gen Z (born 1994 to 2004). Most of these workers will need to have a college degree. It should be noted that in 2013, only 25 percent of advanced technology workers had no college degree (as compared to 63 percent in 1980).

Today, three quarters of the jobs on the factory floor are filled by those with some sort of post-secondary education, says the PwC survey: 47 percent have vocational or junior college, 20 percent hold a four-year degree, and 9 percent of the factory-floor workers have an advanced degree. When it comes to those manufacturing jobs not on the factory floor, half are filled with individuals holding four-year college degrees and 22 percent with those holding advanced degrees, according to the PwC survey.

In order to upskill their employees, most of the respondents say they resort to in-house training (74 percent), followed by recruitment of local STEM students (41 percent) and training outside the company (40 percent). And although just 25 percent of those surveyed say they look to hire people outside their industry, as manufacturers invest and deploy advanced technologies, they are increasingly drawing workers from other fields, e.g., information technology. And 60 percent believe U.S. manufacturing would be more competitive if it were easier to hire foreign nationals with the relevant technology skills.

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