U.S. manufacturers are having a hard time getting enough workers to fill the new orders coming in as American companies begin to bring manufacturing jobs back home.
More than half of major U.S. manufacturing companies surveyed in a recent study said that they were or would be bringing their manufacturing processes back to the U.S. After 25 years of offshoring, however, young American workers aren’t flocking to the factories. They’re not taking enough math classes to be able to work well in a modern plant, and they haven’t even taken shop class. The supply chain for raw materials isn’t what it was, either.
But there’s another problem. The average skilled manufacturing worker now is 56 years old. Life expectancy now is nearly 70 years, and the birth rate is down. The result? Aging populations with more retired people than workers.
There are currently three countries in which more than 20% of the population is 65 or older: Japan, Germany, and Italy. 10 more nations are expected to join them by 2020, and after that it’s just a matter of time.
People are working longer as well as living longer, but physically demanding work may require a younger population. In addition to a less-prepared population of workers, we may be looking at a smaller population of workers.
The solution? In addition to collaboration among schools, businesses and government to prepare young workers better, additional automation may be the solution. Japan is turning to robots not only for industrial automation, but also to do many tasks outside the factory, including helping to care for old people.
We may need to follow their lead.