Select Page

The skills gap appears in many discussions around workforce development and the future generation of skilled workers. Technically speaking, the skills gap is the difference between the skills required for a job and the skills workers actually have. According to the latest estimates, the U.S. could see 2.4 million unfilled manufacturing jobs by 2028, putting $2.5 trillion of gross domestic product at risk.

A complex issue like the skills gap will naturally give rise to misconceptions about what it is and how to fix it. These myths are particularly harmful because they take momentum and resources away from programs and initiatives that are actually making a difference. Here are three common skills gap myths and how we can turn them into productive conversations.

Myth #1: We Have A Skills Gap Because Workers Don’t Have The Right Skills

At first glance, it makes sense to focus on workers’ skills when discussing the skills gap. After all, if more people had in-demand skills, there would be fewer open positions in industries like manufacturing.

Focusing on the lack of skills is an overly simplistic view that overlooks other labor market forces. In reality, a variety of complex factors contribute to the current skills gap, including,

  • An aging workforce
  • Rapid technology change and Industry 4.0
  • Misalignment between industry and education
  • On-the-job training has declined since before the Great Recession
  • Employers responding to high unemployment rates with more stringent job descriptions
  • Barriers to employment like lack of child care, low wages, or regional labor markets

Talking about the skills gap without acknowledging these other factors encourages us to reduce the issue to the low quality of the labor supply (lack of skills) instead of exploring ways to increase access to industry-relevant training. An article in MIT Technology Review calls for increased coordination between the supply side of the labor market (workers and their skills) and the demand side (employers and their skill requirements). Skills gap solutions must address the real challenge of aligning skills training with industry demand.

Myth #2: The Skills Gap Will Get Worse Because Gen Z Isn’t Interested in Manufacturing

The number of retirees is growing faster than the number of new workers. With Gen Z projected to make up 30% of the workforce by 2030 and the negative public perception of manufacturing, companies are worried about how they will hire and retain younger workers.

Thankfully, Gen Z actually has a more positive view of manufacturing compared to previous generations. Efforts to position manufacturing as a desirable and rewarding career option are paying off.

  • 32% of Gen Z have had manufacturing suggested as a career option compared to 18% of Millennials (L2L Manufacturing Index).
  • 27% of Gen Z say they would consider working in the manufacturing industry (L2L Manufacturing Index).
  • 92% of Gen Z employees in the manufacturing industry report being happy with their jobs (Workforce Institute).

While misconceptions still persist, efforts to showcase modern manufacturing careers as exciting and rewarding are paying off. Our Guide to Gen Z in Manufacturing is a good place to start if you’re looking for strategies for hiring and retaining the next generation.

Myth #3: U.S. Manufacturing Is On the Decline

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. share of global manufacturing jobs went from 15% in 1997 to about 8% in 2020. Other Western countries are experiencing a similar shift as production moves overseas. With statistics like this, it’s easy to see why many people think American manufacturing is declining and falling behind compared to countries overseas.

However, looking at the value added by U.S. manufacturing gives us a more optimistic outlook. The total value-added by manufacturing went from $1.38 trillion in 1997 to $2.34 trillion in 2020. The U.S. has less than 5% of the world’s population and generates almost 15% of the worldwide value added in manufacturing. In comparison, China has 20% of the world’s population and generates 30% of the world’s manufacturing value.

U.S. manufacturing is strong and continues to be a productive and innovative part of the American economy.

Start Building a Skilled Workforce with NBS

At NBS, we’ve been helping employers solve their workforce challenges for over 20 years. We’re closing the skills gap by developing industry-relevant credentials to help employers validate skills and hire workers with the skills for success.

Have questions about how skills assessments can close your skills gaps? Send us a message and let us know how we can help. We look forward to building a skilled workforce with you!