As Charles Dickens said, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” While he was referring to the French Revolution, it is also applicable to the current U.S. job market.
We are at record unemployment, which is great for workers. But for companies, it is holding back growth as companies struggle to find the skills necessary to fill customer orders. In October a study from Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute found that the widening manufacturing skills gap is expected to grow from about 488,000 jobs left open today to as many as 2.4 million manufacturing jobs going unfilled between now and 2028.
The economic impact of this job gap is estimated to be $454 billion in manufacturing GDP by 2028, or more than $2.5 trillion over the next decade.
“Manufacturers in the United States are experiencing some of the highest levels of growth we’ve seen in decades, yet the industry seems unable to keep up with the resulting rebound in job growth,” says Paul Wellener, leader of Deloitte’s industrial products and services practice. “With nearly 2 million vacant new jobs expected by 2028, compounded by 2.69 million vacancies from retiring workers, the number of open positions could be greater than ever and might pose not only a major challenge for manufacturers but may threaten the vitality of the industry and our economy.”
Companies are scrambling in every direction. Ingersoll Rand, for instance, is holding onto potential retirees by asking them to stay in supervisory roles to train the upcoming workers.
Other companies such as Samsung are turning to veterans to fill open positions. The company just made the largest donation to date to a program called Heroes MAKE America. This initiative is building a pipeline from military to manufacturing careers for transitioning service members, with a special focus on hard-to-fill production jobs. Samsung’s donation will support over 4,000 program graduates across seven U.S. military bases by 2021.
Other companies are tapping into a workforce that is “other-abled.” While many companies have not looked in this direction before, talent with disabilities have a wide range of education, degrees, professional certifications, work experience and skills.
Working with Ability Beyond, a non-profit group that provides a wide range of services for over 3,000 people with a disability, Tier One Machining of Newtown, Conn., has hired other-abled workers to provide precision machining and manufacturing, packaging and assembly solutions for highly engineered parts and assemblies.
Other-abled employees are also a good fit for warehouse work. ABB Optical Group in Hawthorne, N.Y., hires recruits from Ability Beyond as fulfillment specialists.
Some companies are also taking a more progressive view on hiring those who have served jail time, to the point that some are even willing to employ those who are currently in prison. The Wisconsin Department of Corrections, for instance, operates a work-release program for minimum-security inmates. The program, which is voluntary, pays market wages.
These are just some examples of pools of workers who might not have gotten serious consideration in the past.
I consider this a silver lining. As employers will continue to be strapped for workers they will expand their views on what people are capable of, in the case of the other-abled. They will reserve judgement on those who have paid or are currently paying a debt to society. And they will expand their efforts to honor those who served in the military.
The end result will be the best of times, where people are judged solely on what they can bring to an organization.