Experienced talent is in high demand in the manufacturing industry, needed to perform the kind of specialized work valued by customers. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) estimates that the industry will need 3.5 million more factory workers in the next 10 yeas over and above what exists today, and as many as 2 million of those jobs could go unfilled because of the current skills gap. The industry as a result is asking older employees to stay on the job, some companies going as far as discouraging workers from retiring. Baby Boomers are not only needed for their skill but also to train and transfer their knowledge to the next generation.
Although Millennials (those aged 18-34) make up almost half of the U.S. workforce, most manufacturers are still very reliant on Baby Boomers (ages 51-69). Research shows that 27% of manufacturing workers are over the age of 55.
In fact, keeping Baby Boomers productive is becoming a big priority today for manufacturers of all sizes. This age group has the experience and knowledge required in highly skilled jobs, and tends to value company loyalty. Additionally, many Boomers want – and perhaps even need – to work. To accommodate the need for skilled talent and workers’ who desire to continue to work, according to the Society of Human Resources Management, about 19% of factory employers are “floating the idea” of phased-in retirements. That’s an increase of 6% from only four years ago.
What’s more, to meet the needs of the older generation, manufacturers are also offering flexible schedules, reduced workweeks, job sharing, mentoring or consulting. Some companies are even retrofitting their shop floors to move materials to more reachable places so that there is less wear and tear on knees and backs that are not what they once were.
Key in all of this, even with Boomers staying on longer than perhaps initially anticipated, is preparing Millennials for leadership roles. This involves pairing them with senior employees and putting them in charge of a project. Also, this will provide the opportunity for Millennials to develop leadership skills through on-the-job experiences.
Finding good people to help a company grow is a huge challenge. While continuing to tap into the experience of Baby Boomers is a wise choice, cultivating tomorrow’s employees for leadership and filling in the talent shortage is essential to the growth of American manufacturing.
RPS specializes in insurance solutions for the manufacturing industry and is committed to bringing you up-to-date, relevant information on this critical niche market.