Aging manufacturing workforce analyzed

August 22, 2019

Manufacturers are aware and concerned about the aging of their manufacturing workforce, according to a recent report from the Manufacturing Institute’s Center for Manufacturing Research. The report notes that a recent outlook survey found that attracting and retaining a quality workforce is one of the top challenges facing manufacturers, where nearly one-quarter of the sector’s workforce is age 55 or older. The manufacturing sector is particularly vulnerable to the challenges of an aging workforce due to several factors that sets it apart, including its already older workforce than the overall U.S. labor force, a pronounced skills gap due to the technical nature of manufacturing production work, and ongoing technical change, such as the advance of robotics and artificial intelligence.

The industry’s greatest concern regarding its aging workforce is brain drain, according to a survey conducted for the report. While that concern may be present across a number of industries, it is aggravated in the manufacturing sector by the lack of technical skills training available to manufacturing-sector candidates. Firms that rely more on interpersonal connections to share knowledge as opposed to a playbook that institutionalizes such information may place great emphasis on knowledge transfer and specifically, on mentorship and apprenticeship programs.

Those that have successfully dealt with the aging of their workforce target four main objectives: early awareness; knowledge transfer; retention and productivity maximization; and, boost recruitment.  Each of those goals can be mapped to best practices that are also outlined in the report, The Aging of the Manufacturing Workforce: Challenges and Best Practices, which is available for download, here.

manufacturing, workforce