- The skills gap could leave as many as 2 million skilled manufacturing jobs unfilled by 2025, but a Clemson University project hopes to mitigate that.
- Backed by $3 million from the National Science Foundation, the THINKER (Technology Human INtegrated Knowledge, Education and Research) program will match graduate students with technical college students on an assembly line built for research, according to a press release.
- Specifically, grad students will lead teams of undergraduate and technical college students in research projects suggested by the industry. "The teams will focus their research on connecting human workers and internet-connected machines that are often loaded with sensors and generating massive amounts of data," Clemson said, adding that a wide range of research projects could be involved, "such as developing new manufacturing processes or creating wearable devices that give workers feedback to improve quality."
Experts have been calling for businesses, governments and educators to work together to bridge the skills gap for skilled manufacturing jobs. As factories scramble to replace the aging workforce, they're turning to state and local governments and local colleges to help them create skilled talent pools. But once those workers are in place, employers also will need a culture of continuous learning, as well as strong succession plans to keep the factory floor humming.
At the same time, some manufacturers — particularly those in rural areas — are so strapped for talent that they're using signing bonuses, free health clinics and other perks to attract candidates. Hard hit by the opioid crisis, one Indiana company is offering drug addiction treatment to candidates who make it through the recruitment process but fail the required drug test.
Still, manufacturing remains a hard sell for the younger generations. Those looking to remain competitive in the years ahead may have to consider rebranding; blue-color jobs have an "image problem," experts previously told HR Dive, and they're going to have to work hard to correct it.