The Skills Gap has been an issue in American manufacturing for many years. Only 20% of American college students major in STEM, and unfilled skilled jobs in manufacturing keep increasing. Solutions probably will require cooperation among industry, education, and the government.
But a new study by Deloitte suggests that the problem has gotten worse in the past year. What’s up?
Students have had their educations disrupted by the pandemic. In a survey before COVID-19, 52% of students asked y Pew Research why they didn’t choose a STEM field explained that those majors were “too hard.” Students who have a tough time with math anyway probably found that distance learning made it harder to keep up.
Also, many factories shut down. Workers may have shifted to other jobs rather that waiting for their employers to reopen.
Deloitte found that this was particularly noticeable for entry-level jobs. E-commerce boomed last year, opening lots of jobs in warehouses and distribution. Positions in these fields doubled, and those jobs are in direct competition with entry-level manufacturing jobs.
At the same time, the increase in automation has changed the required skills for many manufacturing jobs, so skilled workers with the right skills are also in short supply.
Manufacturing has been working on its image, says Deloitte, but workers still feel that factories may shut down or move without warning. This makes jobs in manufacturing seem less stable than other kinds of work.
At the same time, manufacturing offers less flexibility than many other fields, and work/life balance is cited as a problem for workers.
Deloitte recommends forging stronger connections with the community, thinking outside the box to improve working conditions, and turning to automation to help fill those jobs.
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