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3 Strategies for Combating the Skills Gap

Roughly 2.4 million jobs are expected to remain unfilled as U.S. manufacturing deals with a skills shortage.

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With 2.7 million jobs opening up from retirement and another two million being added due to natural growth, manufacturers face the challenge of filling around 4.7 million open positions over the next decade. Unfortunately, qualified candidates may be tough to come by. Roughly 2.4 million jobs are expected to remain unfilled as the U.S. manufacturing industry deals with a skills shortage. 

Among the many consequences of a skills shortage is an inability to keep up with customer demand. Half of all manufacturing executives cite maintaining or increasing production levels to satisfy customers as the biggest challenge stemming from unfilled positions. 

While recruiting top talent may prove more difficult, that isn’t to say you should stop trying to fill job openings. From offering internships to keeping an eye out for familiarity with the Internet of Things (IoT), there are several steps you can take to engage engineering graduates and ultimately combat the skills gap.

Get a Head Start

If you’re having trouble tracking down capable employees, develop some yourself via an internship or co-op program. Beyond exposing engineering students to problems and situations they’ll encounter after graduation, internships and co-ops can help increase a student’s familiarity with your business, culture and processes long before they start full time. Instead of using the first few months to get up to speed, students who complete your program and accept a position following its conclusion can hit the ground running. 

Perhaps even more importantly, you’ll be able to develop and hire the best candidates before your competitors. According to research from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, more than 70 percent of interns are extended job offers by their employers. Create an internship or co-op program sooner rather than later to ensure you’re not missing out on engineering students who have already taken the first step in their careers by the time graduation rolls around. 

Tout Your Company Culture 

The fight for top employees is heating up. Earlier this year, U.S. unemployment dropped to 3.6 percent – its lowest rate since 1969. Wondering how to grab the attention of potential employees even as their options continue to grow? Consider highlighting your company’s culture. 

According to research from Deloitte, four out of five business leaders view culture as a potential competitive advantage – and it’s easy to see why. More than 85 percent of millennials would consider taking a pay cut to work at a company whose mission and values align with their own. Better yet, you also have a higher chance of retaining top talent moving forward. At companies with a poor company culture, the likelihood of turnover is nearly 50 percent. That number drops to just 14 percent for organizations with a strong culture.

Let culture take center stage during the hiring process by discussing your company’s values as well as activities that help bring teams together. Whether it’s volunteering at a local soup kitchen or hosting a trivia night every month, focusing in on the ways your company exhibits culture can make it easier to attract and retain talented employees. 

Empower Skilled Employees 

The IoT industry is poised to reach new heights. There will be more than 64 billion IoT devices by 2025, up from just 10 billion in 2018. Meanwhile, the global IoT market could be valued at $6.5 trillion. Prepare for such changes by not only looking for candidates who are skilled in the IoT, but also giving them an opportunity to shine. 

One way engineering graduates can prove their worth is by analyzing data generated by IoT devices. Previously thought of as a niche skill, data analysis can bring big benefits to your manufacturing organization, including greater efficiency and more informed decision-making. 

New hires can also contribute toward the improvement of your organization’s lean manufacturing. Although the concept of lean manufacturing has been around for quite some time, there are always ways to take it to the next level. Empower recent engineering graduates to offer up suggestions for how they would enhance your lean manufacturing skill set. With a fresh perspective on your organization, chances are new hires will spot areas for improvement moving forward. 

A shortage of skilled candidates means it’s time to get proactive about recruiting. Employing several strategies – including extending internships, showcasing your company’s culture and empowering new hires – can go a long way toward engaging engineering graduates and filling open positions.


George Whittier is the president and chief operating officer at Morey, focusing on enhancing overall operational capability that’s sustainable and profitable. With nearly 20 years of business management experience, George develops growth in the company through strategic leadership, operational excellence and customer service. George earned his degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Cincinnati and his MBA from Queens University of Charlotte.


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