Fulfilling Opportunities for Engineers: Addressing the Manufacturing Talent Shortage 

As the manufacturing industry transitions into Industry 4.0, it also finds itself in the unique position of finding skilled workers, especially in the field of engineering technology. According to a study, 45 % of manufacturers had worker shortages in 2022. This scarcity is making it a challenge for the sector to grow, innovate and remain productive. So, what’s driving this challenge in finding talent?  

The Growing Demand for Engineers 

As technology rapidly changes, engineers are in high demand for design processes, optimization and maintenance of facilities. In fact, times have changed so quickly that the manufacturing industry is struggling to catch up. While it contributed $2.85 trillion to the U.S. economy last year, January 2024 saw over half a million vacancies in the manufacturing sector. What is driving this growth? 

#1 Aging workforce 

An aging workforce and many retirements are driving the talent shortage. With 30% of the global workforce projected to be aged 50 or older by 2050, the industry faces a significant challenge as more workers retire. This puts added pressure on existing employees, who take on extra workloads, but opens many opportunities as well. 

 Some ways manufacturers address this is by: 

  • giving young professionals the opportunity for training and growth. 
  • investing in developing mentorship to allow older workers to transfer their skills to the younger generation. 
  • allowing for part-time and possibly even remote work. 

#2 Reshoring and the attractive manufacturing space 

Manufacturing is shedding its outdated image of monotonous assembly lines and replacing it with a narrative of purposeful work and technological advancement. Modern manufacturing environments offer compelling reasons for engineers to choose this field, emphasizing the value of delivering top-tier services and products.  

Through strategic recruitment efforts and a strong social media presence, manufacturers are showcasing the dynamic and fulfilling nature of their workspaces and using the following strategies that promote forward-thinking ideology:   

  • emphasizing the value of providing high-quality services and goods. 
  • leveraging social media marketing and recruitment to compete with other sectors.  

#3 Competitive compensation and career growth  

The talent shortage has sparked a shift toward a candidate-driven job market, where competitive wages and opportunities for advancement are paramount.   

Manufacturers are working to recruit engineers in this job market by: 

  • Raising wages: In 2023, the salary for workers in the manufacturing sector increased by 3.8%. 
  • Establishing a tier system in which workers gain more compensation by moving up.  With advanced degrees, engineers typically make 18% more. 

#4 Advanced Skill Sets 

As manufacturing embraces advanced technologies like robotics and 3D printing, the demand for specialized skill sets is on the rise. To bridge the skills gap, manufacturers are investing in reskilling initiatives that allow engineers to:

  • keep up with rapidly changing technology. 
  • attract a wider pool of talent. 
  • allow workers to earn higher pay. 

Some of the areas in high demand include: 

  • data analytics 
  • supply chain management 
  • automation 

#5 Diversity 

Diversity is a driving force behind innovation and success. With increasing numbers of women and non-white supervisors being employed, the industry is embracing diversity as a strategic imperative.  

To foster diversity and inclusion, manufacturers are: 

  • building initiatives like the Creators Wanted campaign. 
  • advancing DEI efforts to discover hidden technical talents in underrepresented groups, and then create pathways for them to find work in engineering roles. 

Innovate the Manufacturing Sector with an MS in Manufacturing Systems Engineering 

If you’re passionate about making a difference in the manufacturing industry, consider the online Master of Science in Manufacturing Systems Engineering from The University of Wisconsin–Madison. Learn from experienced professors that have designed courses aligned with the industry’s needs, including:  

  • advanced automation 
  • supply chain management 
  • sustainability practices 
  • data analytics 
  • business 

Equip yourself with the skills and knowledge to excel as an operations leader and drive innovation in the industry. Apply now!