Manufacturers Disagree About Skills Gap, PwC Says

Manufacturers Disagree About Skills Gap, PwC Says

Aug 2, 2016

By Bill Koenig, Manufacturing Engineering

Manufacturers disagree about the extent of the skills gap in the workforce, PricewaterhouseCoopers said in a report.

The consulting company surveyed 120 manufacturers concerning how advanced technology is affecting the workplace.

“Manufacturers are not speaking in a unified voice on the skills shortage issue,” PwC said in a report about the survey. PwC worked with the Manufacturing Institute (Washington) on the study.

Among the results:

Perspective about skills shortages aren’t uniform. PwC said 33% of those surveyed reported little or no difficulty hiring workers to utilize advanced technology, while 44% have “moderate difficulty.”

Concern about the future varies. According to PwC, 31% don’t see a manufacturing skills shortage now but expect one in the next three years. Another 26% say the shortage has already peaked. And 29% say there’s a shortage now and it will get worse in the next three years.

New technology isn’t expected to kill manufacturing jobs. PwC said 37% of those surveyed say technology will boost hiring while 45% said there will be no impact on hiring. Only 17% said technology will cut hiring.

“Our survey reveals that many manufacturers are either on the road to developing a talent pipeline ex exploit advanced manufacturing technology, or are in the process of ramping up efforts to do so,” according to a summary of the study.

Traditionally, robots and automation have been the main sources of technology on the factory floor. Now, additional technology, such as controlling and activating production equipment with smartphones, is becoming common at plants.

The newer technology is spurring concern about workforce skills, PwC said.

“When asked about difficulty attracting talent to exploit advanced manufacturing technologies, the picture changes,” according to the consulting firm.

“Only 13% of manufacturers said they have encountered no difficulty in acquiring talent to exploit advanced manufacturing technology.” PwC cited examples such as the Internet of Things, robotics, 3D printing and “virtual/augmented reality.”

“Manufacturers realize the need for a workforce of problem solvers that will adapt to and have comfort with swiftly changing technology,” according to the report. “Manufacturers are stepping up hiring of talent that can keep up with their investments in technology.”

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