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Manufacturing Jobs Return to U.S. - Skilled Workforce Still Missing (Maybe)

Here is the good news, more than ever manufacturers are looking at reshoring manufacturing jobs to the U.S.  A few years ago only 14% were looking at reshoring as a viable option.  That number has climbed to 21% of large manufacturers actually reshoring or preparing to do so, according to a recent article in the Financial Times.

Executives are looking at onshoring due to rising wages in developing countries, shipping costs, more direct communications between design teams and manufacturing operations, and less money tied up in finished goods as they are transported to their markets.

What’s the bad news?  U.S. manufacturing companies hiring skilled workers are having a hard time finding individuals with the skills they need.  In fact, 67% of companies hiring full-time employees cannot find the skilled workforce needed, according to the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM).  Today, 600,000 jobs are unfilled in manufacturing for this reason, according to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).*

Is there really a skilled worker shortage?  It depends on who you ask.  Other experts report that there isn’t a skills gap.  At least not today, according to Bloomberg and the Brookings Institution.  However, because the average age of a manufacturing worker is 56, a shortage of skilled workers is on its way.  Why?  Manufacturers want skilled workers who start at $10 per hour, which are Burger King wages.  Burger King trains their employees and fast food is generally less taxing work.

Whether there is a skills gap now, or there will be one soon, you might want to look into implementing apprenticeship programs now.  Many manufacturers are waiting for the job market to catch on or for the government programs to catch up.  Can you afford to wait?  Partnering with the government for retraining funds and schools for apprenticeship programs might give you an edge on your competition.

Look at your recruitment tactics.  The boomerang generation might take a second look at a manufacturing job if the industry was more creative with how it marketed itself.  How about lattes and iPads at your next job fair?  Finally, “show them the money.”  If you simply can’t afford to pay higher wages to inexperienced workers, then show them their compensation path.  A GenNext might be willing to work for you if you advertise the $23/hour job, even if they know they have to wait three years to get it.**

Manufacturers have to rebuild the trust they once had with the workforce.  Outsourcing and computers have broken that trust and like just about everything since 2008, it needs to be rebuilt.

For additional information, please contact Sonni Fort Nolan or Joe Orlet.

Sonni Fort Nolan
Senior Counsel
Technology, Manufacturing & Transportation
Husch Blackwell
Title Sponsor of the Chamber's Manufacturing Council

*In Memphis, the number of unfilled manufacturing positions is about 16,000 - that’s with over 40,000 citizens currently unemployed. Groups like the Chairman’s Circle are working to close this skills gap through the moon mission: A World Class Institute for Advance Manufacturing and Training. They’re partnering with colleges, universities and technical schools that provide manufacturing training to spread the news about opportunities in these fields as well as with companies in the community to make sure these training programs are meeting their needs. If you’re interested in more information about this initiative, please contact Joanna Kelly at

**The next installment of the Workforce Leadership Series - Real Social Media Recruiting - covers the best ways to use social media to receive positive job placement results. If you’re interested in using Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and mobile devices to recruit the boomerang generation, you can register for the event on Wednesday, August 20 here.
Posted: 7/28/2014 3:29:30 PM | with 0 comments
Filed under: Blackwell, Husch, Manufacturing, Workforce

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The latest news from the Greater Memphis Chamber. For more information, contact Director of Communications Christina Meek at (901) 543-3504 ( or Communications Specialist Jenny C. Fish at (901) 543-3558 (