Manufacturers looking to fill skilled worker shortage, according to survey

ASQ's 2016 Manufacturing Outlook Survey indicates that an increasing number of manufacturers are struggling to find qualified applications for open positions and that there is uncertainty about the economy's future; many companies are remaining proactive in hiring and expect wages to increase, however.


Data from the American Society for Quality (ASQ) 2016 Manufacturing Outlook Survey indicates that an increasing number of manufacturers are struggling to find qualified applications for open positions. Fifty-one percent of respondents say the lack of qualified applicants is their greatest hurdle when hiring for vacant positions and 25% of respondents said their biggest challenge is the time it takes to hire a new employee.

Many manufacturers, however, are being proactive: 55% say they've hired an agency to help find skilled applicants, and 41% are working with local colleges on programs that teach the skills they need, according to the survey results.

"With the Baby Boomer generation retiring and leaving manufacturers with vacant positions, the shortage of qualified applicants remains a clear concern for manufacturers," said Cecilia Kimberlin, ASQ Chair. "It's pivotal that workers get the training and education they need to fill these roles and be successful in the high-tech manufacturing field."

Retirement's impact on quality

Manufacturers are split on the impact retirements will have on their organizations in 2016, with 37% saying retirements aren't likely to affect the organization, and 34% saying retiring employees will greatly affect the organizations.

According to the results, 37% of respondents expect no change in quality due to retirements, while 33% say product or services will be adversely impacted due to retiring employees. Only 6% expect quality to increase.

Regardless of manufacturers' perceived impact retirees have on their organization or quality, the overwhelming majority rely on on-the-job training to transfer knowledge from retiring workers to new employees. While 86% of manufacturers use on-the-job training, 17% require additional, company-provided classroom training and 9% require classroom training through a third-party.

Confidence in economy wanes

In late 2014, manufacturers expressed confidence in the economy, with 83% expecting revenue growth in 2015, but that confidence has subsided as the year comes to a close. According to the latest survey, 65% of manufacturers anticipate an increase in revenue in 2016.

While 83% of manufacturers expected increased revenue in 2015, only 65% experienced a revenue increase, according to the survey results. In 2014, 75% of manufacturers experienced revenue growth, according to the 2015 survey fielded in late 2014.

Forty percent of respondents cited the economy as their organization's greatest hurdle in 2016. Thirty percent say the shortage of skilled workers will be the greatest challenge for their organization. Despite the waning confidence in the economy, 61% of respondents expect their organization to increase salaries and 81% expect their employees to maintain current staffing levels or hire additional staff. 

American Society for Quality (ASQ) 

- Edited from an ASQ press release by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media,

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