3 Challenges in Recruiting Manufacturing Jobs

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Is your company having difficulty in recruiting manufacturing jobs? You’re not alone.

Like many other labor-based industries, manufacturing is experiencing a shortage of skilled workers. According to a National Association of Manufacturers August 2022 survey, more than three-quarters of industry players listed attracting and retaining top talent as a top challenge. Specifically, 77 percent of manufacturers believe they will have ongoing attraction and retention difficulties. This fact is underscored upon reviewing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which showed nearly 780,000 open manufacturing positions at the end of 2022 and 693,000 open positions at the end of Q1 2023.

The world economy relies heavily on the success of the manufacturing industry. If these positions go unfilled in perpetuity, the results could be disastrous. Unfortunately, filling these positions is easier said than done.

In this blog, we’ll cover common challenges in recruiting for manufacturing jobs and offer solutions for overcoming them.

Top Three Challenges Manufacturing Recruiters Face in 2023

While each manufacturing company faces unique challenges in recruiting top talent, the overall industry is up against three major issues.

Challenge 1: Talent and Skills Shortage

The COVID-19 pandemic’s early days resulted in a loss of roughly 1.4 million U.S. manufacturing jobs. Though the industry has largely recovered, the number of employees has not returned to pre-pandemic levels.

On top of this, skilled baby boomers continue to exit the workforce at a rapid pace. As this continues to happen, the number of open positions will grow. What’s more, as these older workers leave the workforce, they take their skills and experience with them. This adds stress to an already difficult situation.

Those in charge of recruiting manufacturing positions not only have to navigate filling a large number of positions, but they also have to deal with a dire talent and skilled labor shortage. Manufacturers report it is 36 percent more difficult now than in 2018 to find the right talent to fill their open positions.

Further compounding the issue is that the skills needed to be successful are rapidly changing. A total of 74 percent of manufacturers believe that the skills needed for manufacturing jobs are changing rapidly.

Furthermore, 65 percent believe that these skills are changing faster than the workforce’s skill level can adapt.

Challenge 2: Manufacturing Industry Image Problem

Despite being perceived as essential to the economy, the U.S. public’s perception of manufacturing jobs doesn’t quite align with the reality. A Deloitte and Manufacturing Institute 2022 study explored how these perceptions contribute to the challenges that manufacturers are experiencing when trying to fill open positions. Fortunately, the study shows progress from its previous edition, which was published in 2017. And yet, negative perceptions still exist.

Though 64 percent of respondents believe U.S. manufacturing roles are creative and innovative, and 40 percent of respondents would encourage their child to pursue a manufacturing career, the talent gap persists. Historically, many people (unfairly) associate manufacturing jobs with hard labor positions for companies that don’t prioritize worker health and safety, don’t pay well, or don’t make opportunities for worker advancement.

Regardless of how incorrect these beliefs may be, unless the public becomes more aware of the reality of manufacturing positions, many workers will still stay away from a career in manufacturing.

Challenge 3: Fear of Automation and AI Making Jobs Obsolete

It’s a tale as old as time. As technological advancements and artificial intelligence (AI) make their way into industries, many workers fear that their jobs will become obsolete. Yes, automation can change how businesses operate and how workers carry out their job duties. However, it does not inherently make manufacturing positions redundant.

Instead, automation and AI actually drives the need for workers to gain new skills and paves the way for manufacturing positions to become more innovative, creative, and skilled. Further, automation creates an opportunity for workers who want longevity in their career and who are willing to evolve and grow their skills continually.

Solutions for Overcoming Top Manufacturing Recruiting Challenges

Now that we’ve explored the top challenges faced by manufacturing recruiting professionals, let’s dive into some strategies that can help overcome these challenges.

Strategy 1: Reframe Expectations

In today’s labor market, businesses may have to choose between quickly hiring an entry-level employee who can be upskilled and leaving a position open for a longer-than-ideal timeframe to wait for a skilled and more expensive employee.

Thinking critically about the type of candidate needed to fill a position will help reframe expectations. Realistic expectations could lead to less frustration regarding the industry-wide talent gap. Moreover, shifting the focus away from hiring skilled employees and more to skills development and upskilling efforts can improve both attraction and retention efforts.

Strategy 2: Review Employee Benefits and Compensation

Though this strategy is one that businesses in all industries need to focus on, it should not be overlooked. As manufacturers compete against businesses within the hospitality and service industry companies, you need to review your benefits packages and compensation to ensure that it is on par with competitors.

In Deloitte’s 2022 study found that manufacturing careers paid more than retail and services positions. And yet, manufacturers still lost candidates to other industries. Top workforce requests to improve their work experience, and perhaps translate into higher retention and attraction efforts, include:

  • a focus on employee overall well-being (e.g., mental health benefits and work-life balance)
  • flexibility in where and when employees work
  • better technology for day-to-day operations

Consider expanding time off programs, offering flexible work schedules, and focusing on family/parental leave programs to resonate with current prospective employees.

Strategy 3: Focus on—and Promote—Upskilling and Career Development

Whether out of necessity to train less-skilled workers and keep up with technological advancements or solely to increase attraction and retention efforts, manufacturers will need to invest in building out upskilling and career development programs.

The Deloitte 2022 study revealed that 58 percent of survey respondents believed that manufacturing jobs had limited career prospects, but nearly 80 percent would opt for a manufacturing job that came with customized training and a clear pathway for career progression. In addition, 60 percent of the younger generation would consider a manufacturing job if it provided clearer pathways for progression in their career.

Strategy 4: Work with a Recruiting Agency

What is one of the best ways to overcome challenges in recruiting manufacturing jobs?

Seek out the skills of a tenured, reputable, and proven recruiting agency like Insight Global.

Insight Global has been helping businesses in many industries find the talent they need to succeed since 2001. With experience navigating the unique needs of those in the manufacturing industry, particularly amid the talent and skills shortage, we’re ready to help you fill your open positions and retain your top talent.

Overcome Hiring Challenges Today

Like many other industries, recruiting manufacturing jobs continues to prove to be difficult. However, by:

  • understanding the challenges you face hiring in today’s market
  • having a grasp on actionable strategies to employ
  • working with a tenured staffing partner like Insight Global

You can be well on your way to succeeding in finding and keeping the talent you need.

If you’re ready to work with a staffing partner like Insight Global, fill out the form below. Find out how we can help!

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