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New technological advancements are shaping the future of work. From automation, robotics, and 3D printing to machine learning and artificial intelligence, the future manufacturing employee will need a drastically different skill set than previous generations.

Contrary to what many people assume, automation and robotics are not “taking jobs away from humans.” The World Economic Forum estimates that by 2025, 85 million jobs will be displaced by a “shift” from humans to machines. But, 97 million more jobs will be created that are more adapted to the division of labor between humans, robots, and algorithms. Working alongside robots and advanced automation will require new sets of technical skills. Half of the current workforce may need reskilling by 2025 and the current manufacturing skills gap may widen as companies struggle to fill increasingly technical positions in an industry already being transformed by new technologies.

Let’s explore the emerging technical and employability skills needed in the manufacturing industry and how employers can start to build more competent and resilient workforces.

Technical Skills

Digital Fluency. While not all manufacturing jobs will require employees to develop software or write code, workers will still need to be proficient with digital tech and systems. User-friendly and “no-code” platforms are already making it easier for workers to interact with digital networks and manufacturing-related digital tools.

Coding. Employees with coding and software development skills will help companies transition to more digital methods and platforms. Familiarity with industry-specific or machine-specific devices or software like Manufacturing Execution System (MES), Programmable Logic Controller (PLC), CAD/CAM software, and CNC programs will become more valuable.

Robotics & Automation. As companies continue implementing robots and automation, manufacturers will need employees who are trained to work alongside these new systems. Robotic skills include programming, monitoring performance, optimizing the system, preventative maintenance, troubleshooting, and repair. Companies who overinvest in automation without considering the “hidden costs” of every robot (i.e., trained and knowledgeable employees) may not see any positive ROI.

Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing). Additive manufacturing is a single-step process that uses CAD or 3D object scanners to direct hardware to deposit layers of materials to form precise shapes. The process increases efficiency by creating lighter, strong parts, reducing lead time, enabling rapid prototyping, and allowing for increased customization. Critical skills include software setup, hardware setup and troubleshooting, and creating model drawings using CAD software.

Big Data Analytics. With digital transformation comes the ability to collect and store vast amounts of data. Employees with the skills to organize and interpret large data sets will help companies stay competitive—whether by finding ways to simplify a complex process or creating a more efficient maintenance schedule to reduce machine downtime.

Industry-Specific Credentials. Employees with industry-specific or machine-specific training will continue to be indispensable in the manufacturing world. A relevant credential ensures an employee has received training that aligns with industry standards and has the skills to be successful. For example, the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC) has developed stackable credentials focused on the core skills and knowledge needed by frontline production and material handling technicians. FANUC America, one of the most familiar brands of manufacturing automation, offers certification programs for its robotics and automation technology.

Employability & Soft Skills

The third edition of the World Economic Forum’s “Future of Jobs Report” predicts the top ten skills needed by 2025. Skills are grouped into four categories:


  • Analytical thinking and innovation
  • Complex problem solving
  • Critical thinking and analysis
  • Creativity, originality, and initiative
  • Reasoning, problem-solving, and ideation

Self Management

  • Active learning and learning strategies
  • Resilience, stress tolerance, and flexibility

Working with People

  • Leadership and social influence

Technology Use and Development

  • Technology use, monitoring, and control
  • Technology design and programming

Critical thinking and problem-solving have remained at the top of the list since the first “Future of Jobs Report” in 2016. New skills that have emerged since the pandemic are skills in self-management like resilience and being flexible in the midst of a stressful situation.

How to Prepare Your Workforce for the Future

Identifying skills your company will need in the future will help you minimize skills gaps and fill every position with competent employees. But how do you know which skills you already have in your organization and which ones you will need to develop? According to one study, 2 out of 5 HR leaders don’t know what skills they have in their workforce.

Skills Gap Analysis

Conducting a skills gap analysis can help companies strategically identify critical skills and create a plan to equip workers with those skills. The analysis should examine the differences between the skills an organization needs to be successful in their industry and compare it to the skills their workforce currently possesses. There are four general steps to a skills gap analysis:

  1. Identify critical skills
  2. Measure current skills
  3. Compare data and find gaps
  4. Create a plan to close your skills gap

One of our previous blogs contains more specifics and tips for conducting a skills gap analysis.


Once you’ve identified the skills critical to your success, you can begin reskilling (or upskilling) incumbent workers. 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.

Community Partnerships

Forming partnerships within the local community is a great way for employers to expand talent pools, shift the sometimes-negative perception of manufacturing, and make well-paying careers more accessible for all job seekers. Local career centers and job programs often receive federal or state funding and may be willing to 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 students or job-seekers who may not otherwise have had the inclination or the resources to receive technical training.

Build a Skilled Workforce with NBS

Nocti Business Solutions is dedicated to helping companies of all sizes build competent workforces. We help employers evaluate potential candidates to ensure they have the required skills and knowledge required for specific positions. We have over 170 technical and employability skills assessments across all industries and can also customize a solution to meet your specific needs. Let us know how we can help!