Solving the Manufacturing Skills Crisis: 6 Ways to Close Skills Gaps

Close skills gap in manufacturing

When your current workforce’s skill sets do not align with the skills your organization currently requires, then you have yourself a skills gap. In the US alone, skills gaps in the manufacturing industry are poised to cost the economy over $1 trillion. We will see over 2 million unfilled jobs in the industry by 2030.



Every organization needs their current teams to possess the skills necessary to get the job done, but is your labor force prepared for the future?


In today’s globally dynamic world, technology and processes and rules change daily and your workforce will need to be prepared in order to succeed.


If your employees aren’t prepared for the future, then you are setting yourselves up for a skills gap. Here is a guide to help you define, identify, and close skills gaps so your employees can develop the right skills.


What is a Skills Gap?

According to BetterUp, a skills gap exists when “your current workforce’s skill set doesn’t align with the skills they need to do their jobs.” In other words, you need your employees to master additional skills in order to complete necessary work. You need to close skills gaps. 


It can be scary to wrap our minds around the fact that so many jobs are becoming obsolete with the advent of technology. However, there are just as many roles opening up where new skills are needed. It’s a matter of positioning your current workforce to succeed by developing the right skills to close skills gaps.

Why are Skills Gaps an Issue?

Manufacturing skills gap


The US manufacturing industry is experiencing a widespread skills gap. A study conducted by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute anticipates that there will be 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030. As a result, the cost to the economy is expected to be $1 trillion. 


According to the study, this current skills gap began when the global pandemic initially eradicated 1.4 million U.S. manufacturing jobs, an enormous number that erased over a decade of job gains. 


By the end of 2020, there were still 570,000 people unemployed despite 500,000 job openings. Executives surveyed in the study reported that they cannot fill higher-paying, entry-level production roles, and are struggling even more to  find and retain skilled workers for specialized roles. 


US manufacturers now find it 36% more difficult  than it was in 2018 to find the right talent for a role. 82% of these manufacturers reported an “inability to increase revenue growth,” while 81% reported they were unable to “maintain production levels to satisfy demand.”

Identify Skills Gaps

1. Consider Representation

It is no secret that women are underrepresented in the manufacturing industry. 30% of the manufacturing workforce is comprised of women, while they make up half of the total US workforce. In production, only 25% of jobs are held by women. In addition, the Deloitte study found that 1 in 4 women currently in the manufacturing industry are planning on leaving, and are 1.8 times more likely to contemplate leaving the industry than men. Steps have been taken to add more women to the manufacturing space. About half of companies surveyed cited having a recruitment system in place for women especially. And organizations like The Manufacturing Institute created programs like the STEP Women’s Initiative to “retain and recruit more women into manufacturing through recognition, research, leadership and mentorship.”

So, take a look at your own organization. How many women are there? Are you failing to reach an untapped resource? Do you have the tools and recruiters in place and trained correctly to reach previously untapped resources?

2. Conduct a Skills Gap Analysis

Close skills gap in manufacturing


To close skills gaps and make your workforce as competitive as possible, you’ll need to first identify and analyze your organization’s skills needs versus your current workforce’s skill sets.

  1. ID Goals Identify your organization’s short and long term goals. Overall, what needs modernizing? What do you foresee modernizing? Is it your customer service process – maybe switching from phone to chat? Perhaps you see a need to overhaul your shipping and returns systems? This will help you determine which skills will be needed in the future.
  2. Create a List of New Roles Required Do this by analyzing your organization’s goals. Then use a mix of the minds from your own teams, and various reports that can help give you ideas. For example, the World Economic Forum creates the “Future of Jobs Report,” last published in 2020. A section titled “Industry Profiles” forecasts evolving workforce needs (both declining and emerging) that can assist you in creating a list of new roles for your own organization.
  3. Make an Inventory of Skills for Each New Required Role Like the previous step, you can tackle this step internally or utilize outside help. Internally, great tools can be found in LinkedIn and other job postings. Externally, you could hire help from a recruitment or studies firm. For each skill, determine the skill type and the level of mastery you expect from each role.
  4. Inventory Your Current Employees’ Skill Sets Through a combination of observation, self-reporting, assessments, and help from software, you will need to determine where your current workforce stands.
  5. Perform the Skills Gap Analysis Now compare the skills you need from your workforce to the skills they currently possess. Identify the skills needed to bridge the gap from current skill sets to needed skill sets.Note that in this stage you will want to identify employees who really shine in these roles. Employees who have demonstrated exceptional skills will be especially helpful and useful when closing skills gaps.
  6. Begin to Close Skills Gaps Develop a training program to bring your workforce up to speed on your organization’s goals and vision for the future. It may be especially useful to combine learning with a social aspect, like peer support, to better round out your training programs.Also consider building this paradigm shift into your company’s culture. Make sure your workforce has a pulse on the org’s plans, and is motivated to keep up with a dynamic work environment. You can start to get a feel for the types of people who are very “on board” with this mindset and others who may push against it.

Close Skills Gaps

3. Develop and Implement a Training Program

You’ve identified the skills your workforce needs but doesn’t have, now it’s time to train for them. Think outside of the box here! Use video tools that combine screen share with webcam to create crystal-clear messages and eliminate confusion. This way you don’t need to spend a dime on fancy cameras, mic, and audio equipment to record training videos. Utilize your current workforce and subject matter experts to film video tutorials and step-by-step manufacturing guides that can be shared and updated as many times as needed. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out for help to the experts in learning. Is there a local academic or training institution you can partner with? How about a technical school, certificate program, or apprenticeship network? You can even provide the organizations you partner with learning materials consisting of case studies of your own company and industry.


Consider creating an apprenticeship program that meets the requirements of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)-registered apprenticeship programs. After approval, your organization will have access to several benefits, including funding, tax credits, and a free nation-wide network of expertise and support. When you develop your training program, be sure to utilize all the resources at your disposal to create a well-rounded program to close skills gaps. All of the work of your skills gap analysis means nothing if the training you conduct to close those skills gaps is ineffective. Make sure to create informative, understandable, effective training materials.

4. Tap Into Existing (Overlooked) Talent Pools

How to close skills gap in manufacturing


The first half of this article discussed women’s underrepresentation in the manufacturing industry. The reality is that the industry has many more woefully-overlooked talent pools. Consider the following. Veterans: Veterans often outperform other employees and stay with the organization longer than most others. 


Foreign workers: Consider hiring from abroad. Limiting yourself to domestic candidates can shut you off from countless perfect matches for any role. 


Disabled individuals: It should be a part of every company’s hiring strategy to include this overlooked group.

Formerly incarcerated individuals: It is becoming increasingly more common for orgs to hire from this group as time goes on. Although they will likely face more hurdles on the outset, most HR departments and recruiters are willing to give people from this group a chance.


Older individuals: Most older workers have decades of experience and have pursued some kind of higher education, making them gold mines in the workforce. Work hard to retain – and hire – from this group.  

5. Revise Hiring Procedures

From the first time you lay eyes on a resume, it’s time to start thinking differently about candidates if you want different results. Make sure you are not mistakenly overlooking qualified candidates with the following steps and tips.

  • Ask your HR team to regularly update your application software to make sure you are screening for the right candidates, terms, and skills. It may be well worth your time to periodically review a few rejected candidates’ resumes to see if you feel you’re missing out on potential valuable talent due to yoru application software and recruiting process.
  • Make sure your careers page on your website is accessible to people with disabilities. 
  • When creating your job posting, focus on the desired skills, values, and abilities rather than required experience, education, and other potentially unnecessary requirements.
  • Use any of the countless specialty job boards in existence online. From Angelist (for startups), to AARP (for older workers), to remote work job boards and everything in between, there are many ideal job boards out there for your org to utilize. 
  • Eliminate application barriers. Pre-employment tests are at best a waste of time and at worst insulting and belittling. Criminal history checks can, and should, be conducted much farther along in the hiring process to encourage applicants and help eliminate bias.
  • Ask qualified candidates why they are the best fit for the role. Give each candidate the opportunity to use their own voice to share what they believe they can add to your organization.
  • Use this resource from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) to develop accessible jobs websites.

6. Network Within Your Community to Continually Tap New Hiring Resources

Video training in manufacturing


In another effort to tap into underutilized talent pools, you can focus heavily on networking in your own community. We compiled a list of ideas for you to network with various kinds of groups and organizations where your organization is located.

  • Reach out to local colleges and universities to offer internship opportunities, teach workshops, career day opportunities, and more. Fostering these relationships could mean a potential permanent source of high-quality candidates now and in the future. 
  • Offer to work with, benefit, and educate underserved groups in your community. You can work with the homeless population, prison inmates, people on the autism spectrum, people with physical disabilities, and more. Bring genuine value to your community while simultaneously networking with underrepresented groups. 
  • Reach out to various government agencies and employment programs. They may be happy to share lists of candidates, including veterans, elderly, and youths. 
  • Find and attend local networking events. Participate in them and start conversations with people in your community. 
  • Host your own cool event that potential hires want to attend! Make it an open house with a relaxed atmosphere with snacks and drinks, or consider hosting a job fair. Either way, show what your organization is about and meet some people interested in learning more.


When your current workforce’s skill sets do not’ align with the skills your organization currently requires, then you have yourself a skills gap. In the US alone, skills gaps in the manufacturing industry are poised to cost the economy over $1 trillion. We will see over 2 million unfilled jobs in the industry by 2030. It will take an orchestrated effort to both identify and close skills gaps in your organization. To ID skills gaps, consider conducting a skills gap analysis, and tapping into known underrepresented groups in the industry.


To close skills gaps you will need to rethink hiring procedures, train your current workforce, and network within your community to ensure a huge, dependable pool of qualified applicants. To change the bleak forecast for skills gaps, we need to work together to share knowledge in creative, efficient, and understandable ways.



Ready to close skills gaps with easy-to-make video tutorials? Capitalize on your subject matter experts with Speach.


Speach takes knowledge sharing platforms to the next level. Digital visualization is at the heart of Speach. Speaches are interactive, how-to videos that any employee can use to capture, transfer, and store knowledge, and it can be used in every aspect of your business. Supporting both iOS and Android, you can use it on any device right on the factory floor. If you are interested in learning more about a knowledge sharing solution that can keep pace with your changing operational environment, contact us to learn more about Speach or request a demo. We look forward to helping you transform the way you share knowledge.