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Editor's Note: Finding the Labor Force Where It Wants to Be

As companies are increasingly employing AI and other advanced technologies, they are locating where the tech-savvy workforce wants to live instead of asking the talent to come to them.

Q3 2019
An often-cited Deloitte survey says there is a skills gap of around 2.5 million manufacturing workers. Manufacturers have attempted to fill that void by targeting millennials — defined as those born between 1981 and 1996 — noting that today’s manufacturing jobs are not the “dirty, dangerous” jobs of yesteryear. Now, that the oldest Gen Zers — defined as those born between 1996 and 2010 — are entering the labor force, manufacturers must double down on their previous efforts in order to attract this youngest cohort of workers.

“Every year, the skills gap is an issue for us manufacturers,” says Reid Leland, president and founder of LeanWerks, a precision manufacturer in Ogden, Utah. “Regardless, we have to take responsibility for our workforce. We can’t make excuses for not having good people –– we have to be active in our communities, helping to grow and attract talent.”

In this issue’s cover story, Reteisha Byrd and Tracy King Sharp of Boyette Strategic Advisors say companies that are progressive in adopting artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality, and other technology will find that Gen Zers will readily jump in and excel at these new innovations. And today’s manufacturers are increasingly incorporating AI into their operations as well as their supply and distribution chains, realizing it will not only enable machines to do more, but people as well.

Of course, millennials and Gen Zers need the knowledge and skills to work with these new technologies, and this is where companies and educational institutions need to work together on training and re-training. Traditional manufacturing hubs have always had an investment in bringing their workforces up to speed but, today, even nontraditional hubs are investing in workforce development, and this has increased company location options. Interestingly, when possible, companies are going where the tech-savvy generations want to live instead of asking the talent to come to them.

Our Workforce issue, which comes out at year’s end, will have more on the topics of multigenerational labor and integrating technology into the workplace. The availability of a skilled workforce is — and will continue to be — the top concern of industry across all sectors.

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