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One Piece of the Manufacturing Workforce Challenge Puzzle

September 23, 2021

By Henry Cialone
President & CEO, EWI

The existence of a manufacturing workforce shortage is old news. I wrote about it in a December 2019 blog, and it wasn’t new news even then! But what we’re hearing now from the manufacturing community echoes what we’re all hearing, reading, and seeing more broadly — the pandemic has exacerbated workforce shortages across most sectors of the United States economy.

  • People have been retiring both earlier and in greater numbers in response to the pandemic. This is especially challenging when you add it to the “gray wave” manufacturing was already experiencing before the pandemic.
  • Further, some people have been pivoting to other kinds of work, sometimes to be able to work from home. Others have been moving to new geographic locations. In both cases, more people have been leaving their jobs. 
  • Additionally, many people have been rethinking their ideas about work, and that has translated into an increased desire for more interesting, fulfilling, and/or balanced jobs and career paths.

The impact on small to medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs) is an acute workforce crisis. Experienced workers are leaving in droves, and it’s hard to get new workers in the door — even with the promise of training. When new workers do come on board, there’s a significant risk of them leaving because they find the job uninteresting or being lured away after six months because competitors can offer higher wages for already-trained labor.

Being shy a few workers is one thing. Operating without 25% of the employees you need to run your operation is another thing altogether.

Here’s what we’re doing about it…

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