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The shortage of skilled workers continues to present obstacles for U.S. employers. The gap between the number of open positions and skilled workers to fill those positions is prevalent in industries requiring specific technical skills, like advanced manufacturing, automation, and logistics. Even before the pandemic, 75% of employers across industry sectors reported a shortage of skilled workers, and 60% of employers felt entry-level job applicants were not prepared for the position.

The first few months of the pandemic erased around 1.4 million manufacturing jobs in the U.S., setting back more than ten years of manufacturing job gains. While the industry has regained 820,000 of these jobs, the remaining 570,000 have not returned. By 2030, U.S. manufacturing is expected to have 2.1 million unfilled jobs.

No matter the industry, employers should explore ways to close their skills gaps and find opportunities to equip their workforce with the skills needed for success and growth.

Buying vs. Building

In very general terms, employers have two main options for closing skills gaps within their organization. Each method has advantages and disadvantages.

Buying talent with the needed skills directly from the labor market.
Building a skilled workforce through training programs, apprenticeships, or partnerships within local communities.

While buying talent may seem quicker and more straightforward, employers must compete for a relatively shallow pool of skilled workers. Employers will need to be competitive when it comes to salary, benefits, and company culture if they want to hire and retain technically skilled workers directly from the labor market.

Building a skilled workforce will require a more significant time investment, but will eventually lower recruitment costs, increase employee retention, and allow for more precise targeting of specific skills.

While buying talent from the labor market will always be a viable option, we will focus on three different approaches to building up a skilled workforce. Employers should explore each option within the context of their own needs to see which is the best fit and may even wish to use a combination of methods.

1. Reskilling

Reskilling (also called upskilling) involves retraining incumbent workers with the skills your organization has in short supply. Reskilling may be especially useful for industries undergoing a digital transformation or implementing automation.

For example, many manufacturers struggle to find workers with skills in advanced automation and robotics. As the industry begins incorporating more advanced automation, the need for technicians, maintenance workers, and other highly skilled workers has also grown. Reskilling helps bridge your skills gap by equipping current workers with the new skills your organization needs to grow. Three-quarters of industrial organizations reported reskilling the workforce as important or very important for their success over the next year, but only 10% said they were ready to address this trend.

2. Apprenticeships

Apprenticeship programs combine on-the-job training with technical classroom instruction—resulting in workers with specific skills and experience for your industry. Apprenticeship programs also help increase employee retention, reduce turnover, improve productivity, and increase diversity in your workforce.

Creating your own apprenticeship program will be a long-term source of skilled workers for your organization since 94% of apprentices stay with their employers after completing their program. Setting up the program will require some initial investment, but there are resources available (especially for smaller organizations) who wish to start an apprenticeship program. Apprenticeship Works! and the JFF’s Center for National Apprenticeship & Work-Based Learning are two examples of national programs that can help you get started.

3. Community Partnerships

Forming partnerships within the local community is a great way for employers to expand talent pools and make well-paying careers more accessible for all job seekers. Often, simply letting your community know what skills or certifications you prefer is enough for job programs or schools to offer relevant training.

Partnering with local high schools and community colleges helps educate an upcoming generation about careers in your industry and can shift the sometimes-negative perception of skilled trades. Offering tours of your facility or job-shadowing opportunities is a great way to educate potential workers about exciting careers they might not have considered.

Local career centers and job programs can help connect more job seekers with opportunities in your company. These programs often receive federal or state funding and will even offer programs to train job-seekers in the specific skills or certifications you require. Informing your community about the skills you are looking for can create opportunities for job-seekers who may not otherwise have had the time or resources to receive technical training. A few of our industry partners, like FANUC and MSSC, provide technical skills training on military bases and in correctional facilities to equip job-seekers reentering the workforce with skills for a successful career.

Building a Skilled Workforce with NBS

Closing your skills gap and building up a skilled workforce is critical to your company’s future success. The shortage of skilled workers will likely continue to challenge American employers, especially in the realms of advanced manufacturing, automation, logistics, and robotics. Begin closing your skills gap by assessing what skills your workforce will need to be successful and then build programs to equip current workers and job-seekers with those skills.

Nocti Business Solutions has been helping employers solve their workforce challenges for over 20 years. We help employers evaluate potential candidates to ensure they have the required skills and knowledge required for specific positions. We have over 170 technical skills assessments across all industries and can also customize a solution to meet your specific needs. Let us know how we can help!