The future of the manufacturing industry will rest on leaders’ and organizations’ abilities to be adaptable, flexible and innovative in a rapidly changing marketplace. Across industries, leaders feel the weight of a lack of qualified talent. Nearly seven in 10 companies, or 69%, have reported struggling with talent sourcing and hiring difficulties, according to a survey by ManpowerGroup. In the manufacturing industry, this lack of qualified talent could cause more than 2.1 million jobs to go unfilled by 2030. The biggest challenge for manufacturing companies is hiring for skilled, technical roles that require extensive training and specialization — roles that can rarely be filled by those early in their careers.

According to a study by Deloitte that pulls from data by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the industry has still not recovered enough from the considerable loss of around 1.4 million manufacturing jobs during the pandemic. Even after two years, there remain more than 500,000 unfilled jobs in the manufacturing industry.

Here’s what’s driving this shortage: The industry is rapidly digitalizing, and workers require more flexibility and support post-pandemic. First, the digitalization of the manufacturing industry has been a concern of stakeholders for years now. With smarter tech — like artificial intelligence (AI), robots and advanced manufacturing tools —workers have been concerned about the elimination of their roles. Second, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a global shift in how people understand and relate to work. They want more flexibility, whether in the hours they work or the location from which they work, and they expect their companies to offer more support. Manufacturing was not previously equipped to handle this shift to remote and hybrid work, and this has further driven the complexities of hiring.

The future of manufacturing relies both on technology and how stakeholders choose to use that technology. Digital tools can help create better, more efficient workplaces that — as an end result — create positive employee experiences. Technology supports the growth of manufacturing, and it can afford manufacturing workers the flexibility they want in the modern workplace. In short, technology has the power to sustain and grow manufacturing companies. The most important factor for manufacturing industry leaders is to know where to invest.

Eliminating Skills Gaps and Decreasing Worker Shortages

Out of all the available workplace technology that companies can invest in, training technology is the most valuable. This is because it quickly and directly addresses the biggest challenge facing the industry at this moment: the worker shortage. Training technology eliminates the skills gap and remedies worker shortages because it equips team members with the information they need to fulfill their jobs. Training technology can be used beyond the onboarding process but also as a tool to create upskilling initiatives so that existing employees can expand their knowledge base and receive new certifications or competencies.

The skills gap can be altogether eliminated if companies take a proactive approach to training and equip their teams with the tools they need to train, upskill and reskill. A digital training technology will help companies reach their employees at a critical time, no matter the state of the organization or the location that team members may choose to work from. For example, with a learning management system (LMS), employees can take training at home, in a factory, or on a job site. This is incredibly useful for employees who may work with a hybrid schedule, completing their jobs from home or on site.

Manufacturing technology — like robots, cobots and AI — rapidly changes, and new updates are available regularly. This creates a quick turnaround of new information, new certifications needed, or updated training courses that must be taken. To create an environment where employees feel supported and equipped to handle the changes to manufacturing technology, companies must provide tools that simplify the training process and make information accessible.

Enable Flexibility and Support Quality Assurance With Compliance Tech

In industries like manufacturing, where workers must adhere to strict compliance standards or obtain specific certifications before taking on a job, keeping a record of training and credentials is critical. Compliance technology, a component of a digital training strategy, can support manufacturing industry workers and leaders alike. First, compliance technology acts as a skills verification system. This is beneficial to workers because it is easy to demonstrate to prospective employers, company leaders, or clients that you are qualified to tackle the job at hand. This credential report can provide leaders with the quality assurance they need to safely assign someone to a specialized task.

A digitalized training process means that compliance tracking and verification are more flexible. When training is completed and certified in the digital space, it is easier for workers to share information about their credentials and for managers to verify those credentials.

Manufacturing companies are feeling the stress of understaffed teams. It is time to take a proactive approach and cultivate a better work environment that is designed to support and sustain employees in a growing and changing industry. With digital training tools, companies can prioritize their employees, equip their teams to fill new roles, and verify skills to ensure compliance and safety. The future of manufacturing depends on leaders’ abilities to equip their teams with the tools that they need to succeed.