This year, as the country continues to face a labor shortage, celebrating those who have chosen careers in manufacturing during Manufacturing Month is especially important. According to a 2021 study conducted by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, the manufacturing skills gap could result in 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly played a role in the industry’s present worker shortage, there are still 5 million fewer Americans working in manufacturing now than there were 20 years ago. If this trend continues, the worker shortage has the potential to cost the U.S. economy up to $1 trillion by 2030.
We can’t just look at this from a cost perspective; a manufacturing labor shortage also can cause detrimental physical impacts to the country. As a manufacturer and leading technology grid innovator improving power reliability and delivery worldwide, S&C Electric Company and its team members know the impact a single piece of equipment can have on the power grid.
The equipment manufactured by the team at S&C helps keep the lights on for neighborhoods and critical infrastructure around the world. It is crucial for electric utilities to have access to this equipment to maintain power delivery, especially when faced with severe weather.
A manufacturing worker shortage has the potential to impact equipment suppliers’ ability to meet utility demand. This could mean longer and more frequent outages, further impacting the lives and safety of residents across the country. This is a repercussion the country can’t afford.
An Opportunity for Growth
Over the same 20 years that manufacturing jobs have declined, manufacturing capabilities have advanced at an impressive rate. With the addition of technological improvements and automated systems, manufacturers can do more than ever. These advancements have also changed what manufacturing jobs look like.
While we continue to see a worker shortage in the manufacturing industry, the industry itself is growing. New jobs are opening every day because companies are increasing their output.
Some of the biggest misconceptions regarding manufacturing jobs are the work is dirty, the day-to-day role is repetitive, and automation is obsoleting the need for manual roles. Despite an increase in automated systems, people are still a critical component of the manufacturing process. Automation allows manufacturers to increase their output, but it also provides increased opportunities for team members.
Every manufacturing environment thrives off continuous improvement and creativity. As automation and technology continue to play larger roles in the manufacturing process, they present team members with countless opportunities to learn exciting new skills and to evaluate processes to make systemwide improvements. When companies provide on-the-job training to help grow skill sets, it helps propel team member career paths forward.
Finding the Next Generation of Manufacturers
Manufacturing is perfect for individuals who like to work with their hands, want their job to make a difference in the world and are interested in a career that comes with a variety of growth and educational opportunities. Bringing the next generation of manufacturing talent into the industry depends on recruitment efforts that explore how much the industry has changed. We must show today’s young, creative and technical minds that manufacturing is an exciting career option—one that will provide purpose, growth, and financial security.
Connecting with local high school and trade schools in surrounding communities is a great place to start. By presenting young people with careers in manufacturing early on, whether that be through manufacturing educational and information sessions or summer positions, the industry can help attract the right talent.
The manufacturing labor shortage is an opportunity to change the public perception of manufacturing careers, strengthen the U.S. economy, and introduce a new generation to a fast-paced, secure, and innovative career path.
Jim Johnson Jr. is the chief operating officer at S&C Electric Company. Jim joined S&C 20 years ago as a summer intern before being hired in the Facilities Engineering department. His progression through the company has allowed him to work with every aspect of the production process. In his present role, Jim is responsible for S&C’s global operation process.